Viewpoint

6 May - 18 June 2006

This landscape-themed exhibition was curated by four students from LICA (Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts) at Lancaster University.

'Viewpoint' was an exhibition curated by four students from the recently founded LICA at Lancaster University. It displayed contemporary work based on the theme of landscape by three artists: Chris Rigby, Emma Hunter and Dave Bevan. Collectively, the artists expanded on the theme from contrasting perspectives, whilst making use of varying mediums.

More about the artists

Chris Rigby

Chris Rigby studied an art foundation course at Lancaster and Morecambe College before moving onto Falmouth School of Art to study illustration. He was later mentored by Chris Robinson, a practising artist and graduate of the Royal Academy. Rigby’s work has been exhibited widely, both in solo and group exhibitions, and can be found in UK galleries and private collections worldwide.

Artist's statement:

My interest in fine art painting really developed while at Illustration College at Falmouth School of Art, during a trip to the National Gallery in London. I was taken with a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby.

There was an old tutor on our course that knew all the Old Master techniques from whom I gleaned as much information as I could. After college, I would copy masters such as Titian and Velasquez from books. During this period I was taken on board by ex RA student and practising artist Chris Robinson.

All the while through school, [my] foundation course and up to Illustration College, I'd been resistant to the idea of going down the fine art road. At first, I thought I was going to be a graphic artist, then I was going to be an illustrator. Eventually, my resistance dropped and I fell in love with painting for painting's sake. I was fascinated with what this substance was capable of, the alchemic qualities of it.

Through direct observation, I learned that everything I needed to know was there before me; that there are no secrets. The world we live in is every bit as fantastic as the one we want to live in. The experience of painting direct for me opened the doors of perception (as described by Aldous Huxley). It's like the rocket trip of LSD achieved through one's own efforts. The world would appear as a Fauvist painting after a good day’s painting. It's still like that.

My dedication to landscape fermented while living in Cornwall a second time, from 1997 to 1999. After a brief period in St Ives, I moved to St Just where I shared a house with artist Paul Lewin. It felt to me that there were exciting things going on in landscape painting; it spoke to me of my own life experience.

When I moved back up North, it was with the intention of getting to grips with the landscape I had grown up knowing, namely the Cumbrian Fells. I didn't feel anyone was painting the fells with the vitality I had seen in Cornish painting. Personally, I wanted to develop my own relationship to the fells. I wanted to get through the playground feel of the place to get to something real, and painting to me is a way of engaging with the world and my reality - it's a language, my vocabulary. It's a tool for understanding the abstract nature of everything and to a better understanding of myself.

How is landscape relevant in the contemporary art world?

Anything done with passion and integrity is worthwhile. Whether this is important in the contemporary art world, I don't know. It's difficult for me to say what is of value in the art world today without focusing on too small an area. It's best to pursue your own course without too much regard for what's hip and what's not. You have to go with what you're comfortable with and understand best. It took me a long time to realise and accept that.

What are your main influences?

[My] early painterly influences include Corot, Cézanne and Jean-Baptiste Chardin. More recent interests [of mine] include Kiefer, Kienholz, Polaroid photographs [and] hip-hop. Where do you stop? I try and keep the doors open to all influences. Most recently I've been thinking of the work of a couple of American abstract expressionist painters namely Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline. Really I'm interested in a whole range of stuff that doesn't necessarily relate to landscape painting, that's the way it goes. You take influences on board, then somewhere along the line they seem to have more relevance to your own work than they did previously. Sometimes I look for ways of bringing them into my work but it's best not to force the process - it's much more interesting that way.

www.chris-rigby.co.uk

Two fine art paintings of rolling hills by Chris Rigby. 'Highstreet' is of hilltops beneath a cloudy sky, and 'Hartsop Fields' shows downward slopes covered with fields and trees.
Highstreet, c. 2004; Hartsop Fields, c. 2004

Emma Hunter

Emma Hunter also studied at Lancaster and Morecambe College, as well as Lancaster University and Chelsea College of Art and Design, where she completed an MA in Fine Art. Her work has been seen in many exhibitions and can be found in several major collections.

Artist’s statement:

In my work, the making of a mark is a vehicle for exploration. Lines travel through the white ethereal space of the background. Humble shapes and patterns allude both to real objects (like map symbols, diagrams, science, nature, architecture) and abstracted form. These semiotic forms become a language for exploration and construction with which narratives of strange and fantastical micro/macro landscapes are woven.

I am interested in the idea of daydreams, the possibilities of transcending the normal, everyday and mundane and sinking into unexplored caverns of the mind. As I make a piece of work I lose myself in fantastical worlds; the act of drawing becomes a mode of inquiry, a way of getting lost in infinite possibilities, where the rules of the universe can be warped and manipulated. Scale can fluctuate, marks can expand as I attempt to 'grow' the map-like drawing as if [I am] 'growing' my own landscape.

Like a cartographer who reduces an entire landscape to a symbolic map of pared-down points of interest, I map and doodle my way through ideas, reducing my thoughts to free-flowing simplistic forms as a kind of visual shorthand for my imaginings. I meander around the background of a work, simultaneously constructing, conquering and exploring, allowing stories to unfold, ideas to take root and grow, whilst I try to impose some kind of logic on it all. The interesting thing about a cartographic approach is the sense of a planar view of the drawing. There is no illusion of three-dimensional space; the viewer looks at the reductive evidence of another mind’s wanderings, the results of an obsessive game. They are invited to let their own mind wander and construct their own weaving narratives and imagine their own fantastical landscapes.

I try to tread a careful line between control and chaos, between aesthetic charge and an indifference to formal concerns, always with one eye on the historical problems of abstraction.

www.emmahunter.com

Semi-abstract work in ink, acrylic, graphite and marker pen on paper, by Emma Hunter.
Plot, 2005; Superstruct, 2005

Dave Bevan

Dave Bevan's artwork stems from a fascination with the urban environment. This exhibition featured photographic work from his Playing Fields series.

Artist’s statement:

As an artist, I find myself constantly struggling, trying to unearth, understand and recognise the details and particulars that add up to the sum of any given situation. Not necessarily the total, all-encompassing truth of that place but rather the fragments: the clues and pointers toward seeing, understanding and learning. Signifiers and footnotes, smoke & mirrors - all that which adds up to the comprehension of our personal place and its larger surroundings. I find the post-modern city a fascinating proposition; a theatre encompassing nearly every element of living, characters of every description; a [constant organism of influx], not nearly as permanent as [it] would seem when viewed from a distance [and] liable to shift under your very feet; a place for chance encounters [of] weirdness and splendour; a cage, a gauntlet, booby-trapped with mundane routines and the not-to-distant threat of some violence-or-other; an empty hull scattered with shipwrecks and drifters, the birdsong of sirens always on the winds. It is this potential for life and living that forms the basis for [my] Playing Fields series.

I spent the majority of my childhood in and around these car parks, skateboarding, falling over, hanging around, learning such subtleties as the limits to my youthful drunkenness and (courtesy of some of the more wayward kids from round my way) how to hotwire cars. These non-places - architectural products of some consumerist vision - served as my (and plenty of others') play-parks and still hold a special place in my consciousness, and, nostalgia-not-withstanding, I find a strange beauty inherent within their uniform lines and unavoidable emptiness. This particular image may or may not resonate with the spectator, and as the artist, I'm not overly concerned either way. I don't see my position as one of having to convince people of the aesthetic merits of NCPs and those spaces adjacent to supermarkets. Rather, I hope these images and words will highlight the potential our immediate surroundings contain for experience and events often quite out of the 'ordinary'. Outside life is happening, regardless and always.

Four landscape photographs of empty car parks and motorways during night and day by Dave Bevan.