Landmarks - Spain
View from above
Viewed from above, the earth appears strange and decorative as the oceans, mountains, fields and rivers, easily identifiable, shape the land. Georgia O’Keeffe painted beautiful abstract cloud and sunset paintings after she was bowled over by the views she enjoyed on her first aeroplane trip. Jean Davey Winter is equally fascinated by that alternative view, and HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, with her feet firmly on the ground, went along to view her recent aerial paintings and photographs.
Many people are fascinated by maps and so these paintings cannot but intrigue. There is a peacefulness on entering the gallery seeing the large canvases of aerial views of Lanzarote, Spain, Mexico and America stretch out before you. They are slightly disorienting at first, because instead of seeing the earth laid out below you, you view it horizontally.
Lanzarole aerial view
Close up or even from a distance the landscapes are amazing. Abstract they may seem but it is easy to trace the randomness and graphic quality of fields, trees, rivers. Fields are surprisingly rectangular, rivers twist and snake across the land, around mountains. Even roads seem to have a mind of their own, presumably following ancient man-made byways. Archaeologists have long sourced views from above to identify ancient habitations and settlements.
And it is that which appeals to Jean Davey Winter: “Aerial perspective gives an increased awareness of the delicate balance between man and the environment, it gives an overview of the marks made upon the earth’s surface by agriculture, transport and urbanisation.”
Her work has, for a while, revealed the world from above, first station concourses, shops and then the work moved on when she started taking photographs from passenger aeroplanes. And last year visiting the volcanic island, Lanzarote, she had the enviable trip in a low-flying microlight with all the shaky, stomach-churning movement of seeing the land in genuine close up – almost being part of the land.
The exhibition is of her last three years’ work. The earlier work has been painted from photographs, played around with, photoshopped, colour-enhanced to bring out the atmosphere and her experience of the land.
With her exciting microlight flight her work has moved into a more physical direction. Feeling the land is an important dimension of the work: “I have now taken the work beyond the original image.” Her intention is to produce a collaged, more abstract image by using photographs, photographs printed on thin Japanese-type paper, fabric and paint. In this way she points up the texture and feel of the land.
The earth colours are beautiful; the blue and grey volcanic earth of Lanzarote, the blood, passionate red and golds of Spain; the green of France.
It is a fascinating exhibition, intriguing to look closely at the contours, the skeletal traces of the land, the rivers, mountains. And as you look you can make out recurring lollipops of trees, vast circular irrigation systems in America, huge acres of American fields, smaller ones in Spain, volcanic interruptions, industrial interventions.
And interestingly, in the dry volcanic ash of Lanzarote, there is a repetition of small volcanic constructions like eyebrows which are in fact acres of vineyards, built to conserve the tiny amount of available rain and moisture.
Surprising what can be seen from above, so catch it before it ends on 3 May.
Aereality runs from 21 April to 3 May.
Hastings Arts Forum, 36 Marina, St. Leonards-on-Sea,
East Sussex TN38 0BU. Phone 01424 201636.
Open 11am-5pm daily (closed Mondays).
Hastings Arts Forum website: hastingsartsforum.co.uk
For further information see: www.axisweb.org/artist/jeandaveywinter