Understories/Overstories (with Celia de Serra) 2 - 28 March
After a successful solo show in the gallery in 2010, Celia de Serra is back for a joint show with artist and curator Tim Craven who is new to the Art Stable. The lure of the tree as primary subject possesses multiple strands for both artists including their strong attraction to potential abstract qualities. Random botanic growth generates an infinitesimal variety of juxtaposing shape and tone. The pattern making aesthetic, a human attribute often exploited by the Post-Impressionists, is particularly strong in Craven’s work and this is qualified by an early interest in Photorealism. He is drawn to the impersonal and flattened photo-mechanical shapes produced by John Salt and others. De Serra, though, professes more painterly concerns; her work inhabiting the boundary between Romantic expectations of pastoral landscape and the visceral real-worldliness of the forest understory.
Equally important in their work is the action of sunlight and how their subjects are animated by it. Often transient, it has to be captured by camera. A dull view of trees on an overcast day can be lit-up and thus transformed dramatically and emotionally by a sudden burst of directional sunlight. This for Craven’s and de Serra’s trees amounts to a sort of figurative Op-Art or dazzle camouflage. The physical structures are dissolved and the organic tree shapes of branch and foliage are fractured into multitudinous and amorphous elements of chiaroscuro.
Both artists share allegiance to the English pastoral landscape tradition, a thread that runs from the Picturesque of the 18th century through Samuel Palmer and the Ancients to the Neo-Romantics of the 1940s. However while the latter transformed their compositions with emotive qualities, Craven’s work in particular avoids sentiment. Both artists’ feelings are perhaps more covertly conveyed through their obsessive approach to the source imagery. Their deliberately long-winded and forensic investigation of nature seems to suggest that they fear its imminent disappearance.
While de Serra explores the woodland floor in search of deserted tracks made by animals and people, Craven tends to look upwards. His precise and analytical approach resonating against de Serra’s more lyrical sensibility and soft, haunting light serves to enhance our emotional response to both when seen in tandem.