Hannah Brown & Cara Thorpe
Curated by Aoife O' Connell
12 May – 4 June
During the 18th and 19th Centuries, landscape painting was thought of in relation to three aesthetic concepts: the picturesque, the pastoral and the sublime. Pastoral landscapes celebrate mankind’s ability to tame nature, often depicting harvests and livestock. The Picturesque refers to the charm of discovering the landscape in its natural state. The third concept is the sublime, works that show nature at its most fearful, the terror and power imposed on us by nature.
These works by Hannah Brown and Cara Thorpe seem to sit somewhere between the pastoral and picturesque, and the sublime, however, rather than the fearfulness inflicted by natures natural state, these feelings of uncertainty and malevolence are evoked through depicting man-made landscapes or man’s interventions within the landscape. Although stylistically different, both Hannah Brown and Cara Thorpe portray the foreboding natures of their landscapes through the processes of finding forms in their art making.
Brown records the shapes in the landscape, the undergrowth or the murky waters, as the light fades in the evening, at a time called civil-dusk. The precision in her work doesn’t reduce them to photograph-like depictions, but rather, details are lost due to the hue of dusk, all wildlife, flowers, people, structures, roads and blue skies are removed, building the sense of drama; transforming scenes of potential tranquillity and beauty into something eerie and threatening. Scenes are reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, where a photographer believes he has unwittingly captured a murder on film while photographing in a park, yet her technique harks back to the landscape paintings of Romantic painter, John Constable and the early Impressionists Constable went on to influence, a nod to the tradition of landscape painting, but her works are truly contemporary.
Thorpe, on the other hand, continues to experiment with various processes. Using stencilling, glazing and sanding, she creates overlapping textures, which suggest underlying narratives. She constantly reworks the boards until the images start to suggest themselves, finding half imagined scenes within the paintings, with an ambiguity between malevolence and beauty. The process is one of repetitive layers and scraped away surfaces against which shadows, silhouettes and flat areas of colour are preserved and allowed a residual presence. The paint is then pared back until a balance is found between colour and texture, abstraction and representation, narrative and ambiguity. She is interested in groupings of natural elements and man-made structures and play with juxtaposition and scale. The natural and man-made environments depicted are solitary places that seem to rest on the threshold of memory – places half imagined yet strangely familiar - evoking in the viewer feelings of mysterious uncertainty.