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Harriett-Macaree Still under the volcano

A colourful journey from Mexico, via Nice  to Hastings

Although we are always surrounded by colour, the changing tones of the sea, sky and trees the world has seemed a little bleak of late. So it is interesting to be reminded of the strength of colour – reds, oranges, blues and greens – that can lift a mood and evoke memories.  HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths found colour writ large in Harriet Macaree’s paintings at Hastings Arts Forum.

This exhibition sits happily in HAF’s new, smaller, incarnation. However, Macaree had been planning on taking the larger room before HAF reconfigured the space. She is nothing if not prolific. As the title says she has lived in several countries, absorbing the light, colours and memories; Mexico, south of France, frequent visits to India, and now landed in Hastings.

Harriett Macaree

Harriett Macaree

She has adapted to Hastings well. Knowing no one when she arrived five years ago, however, it only takes meeting one person, who happened to be a fellow artist and she now feels very at home here. As many who have arrived before, she has found how supported and welcoming Hastings people are.

Painting profusely Macaree has had exhibitions in Oaxaca, Nice, India, and now in her adopted town, Hastings. The paintings are larger than I expected, dizzyingly  energetic in colour and execution. She says, “My images are rooted in the real world, drawn from nature, in sketches and photographs but abstracted in an organic way.”

Her work is more as expressionistic than realistic. There is a feeling of diving and delving into the imagination and  memories: they seem like fantasy realism, as she tends to produce images of an ideal scenario, her own particular idyll. She works in oil, acrylic. watercolour, pastel and collage, applying the paint in different ways in tune with the subject and atmosphere; sometimes thickly applied, poured and spread as well as gentle, restrained gestures.

It is evident that she loves water (one of the reasons for drifting to Hastings), there are women and children bathing in a waterfall, rivers and streams. Some paintings have an architectural backdrop, others spirit figures float through the verdant undergrowth. Lushness abounds. Also a sense of restlessness as figures look outwards or forwards into the unknown through voids or windows.

Harriett Macaree Moonlight Swim

Harriett Macaree Moonlight Swim

It depends on the way you look at things but not all her paintings feel exuberantly positive. A moonlight swim reminded me of an idyllic swim in a natural pond, looking up at the wonder of  a full moon. Macaree’s night swim feels rather different  – brooding, delving down into the dark water as if all is not right with the world; murky emotions lurking under the surface.

Some of her paintings have deliberately been in homage to some of the great Masters of painting: Bonnard, Klein and Matisse. When she first arrived in the south of France she visited Matisse’s grave and stood for a while thinking about the man and asking “if he had any scraps he could pass on.” She did not relate if he had been generous and helpful in her quest.

Harriett-Macaree Hastings Chimneys

Harriett-Macaree Hastings Chimneys

Change hapens, nothing stays the same. Time in the South of France didn’t last and Zig Zag A Painter’s Path  presaged a transition from her time there: obstacles in the path as it changes direction. Moving on…

… to Hastings. There is a marked difference in these paintings and drawings: the palette changes. The light and the seascape loved by artists, is different, muted, a quieter, more realistic landscape. I liked her more subtle, lifelike paintings of chimney pots and ink and charcoal drawings of Sussex fields – which give a real sense of the countryside. There is a sense that although this place is new to her, she has come home.

 A colourful life. And while we are pretty much confined to our shores you can stay in Hastings and take a journey in paint.

Oaxaca to Hastings via Nice A journey in paint by Harriet Macaree is on at Hastings Arts Forum until 23 August, 2020 at 20 Marine Court, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0DX Open 11am–5pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Posted 18:45 Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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