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Songs of Spring – a welcome celebration of landscape and mythology

25 Feb 2024 5 minute read
The Blue Donkey (Detail). Copyright: Steve Brockett

Stephen Price

Abergavenny’s Art Shop and Gallery is currently hosting a joyous spring exhibition from three artists who have brought to life their own personal and deep connections to their most cherished landscapes and mythologies.

The exhibition brings together works from three vital artists working in Wales today – Steve Brockett, Lois Hopwood and Flora McLachlan.

Distilled thoughts

Steve Brockett’s semi-abstract canvases are ‘distilled thoughts, thick with symbolic figures and animals, historic references and mythical reimagining’.

His works are immersed in the rich earthy hues and potent skies intrinsic to the landscapes of Spain that inspire his work.

The content and technique of his paintings present the viewer with images that are both arresting and challenging – the distorted visualisations are simultaneously familiar but mysterious, raw and sensual, imposing yet fragile.

Angel and an Almond Tree. Copyright: Steve Brockett

Discussing his featured works, he said: “Painting is flirting with the subconscious, using mark making and colour until an image starts to emerge. I rarely start a painting with a pre-planned outcome.

“For me it’s about deconstructing and reorganising – the abstract marks sometimes seize on and link to a small element that then expands.

“A work can be ‘stuck’ for days until there comes a point of resonance and a coming together which evokes an emotional response.”

“Becoming abstract”

Lois Hopwood originally trained in Fine Art, followed by work as a Textile Conservator at Hampton Court Palace and then studied screen design at the National Film and Television School.

Drawing has always been at the heart of her landscape pieces. Bringing together Fine Art and set design she selects sketches and projects them, taking landscape drawing through a process that gives it back a sense of scale.

In 2010 she won the ING Drawing prize at the Mall Galleries. Her paintings in oil are about capturing of the spirit of a place.

Y Pwll. Copyright: Louise Hopwood

As time goes on, her painting become less about a picture of a landscape and more about the paint itself becoming abstract.

The small paintings of birds are drawings in free hand over the top of abstract panels, making something appear out of nothing.

Charmed moments

Flora McLachlan works from her print studio in West Wales, on the edge of a wild moor, surrounded by lichened trees.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) and is currently studying for an MA in Fine Art at Aberystwyth School of Art.

She said: “My work grows out of the experience of observing the landscape. I want to evoke a single charmed moment out of time, a magical vision that stills.

“The scene is our ancient and enchanted landscape, roamed by guardian spirit-like animals, shadowed by woods where the holly springs green amongst the bare oaks and beeches.”

Sea Dance with the Seals and Selkies. Copyright: Flora McLachlan

“I am inspired by the fairy tales I grew up reading, and by the motif of the quest in the medieval romance poetry I read during my English degree.

“For me, etching is a slow and reflective process. The image moves through many stages of biting in the mordant, as I add layers of line, texture, shadow and meaning, watching the image slowly become itself.

“I want the image to look like a weathered relic from the distant past, briefly come alive for us to see.”

New mythologies

The paintings and prints are presented masterfully and homely in the upstairs of Abergavenny’s quirky Art Shop, a stone’s throw from the town’s iconic market building.

The Art Shop itself has become an important cultural hub for the Monmouthshire town, bringing together moving works from a wide range of disciplines by artists working in Wales and beyond. It also, incidentally, has one of the prettiest window displays for many a mile.

The town would much be lesser without it.

Inland Sea II. Copyright: Lois Hopwood

A visit is like stepping back in time – the warm and welcoming team are experts in the refined art supplies they make available, and it’s this same team that work tirelessly together to host and curate events and inclusive classes.

If this exhibition is a taste of the year ahead, then perhaps there’s hope on the horizon after all. Songs of Spring to sing.

Perhaps, in spite of the world on our screens, there are new mythologies for us all to write and landscapes old and new to nurture us and write them in.

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.”

(Desiderata: Words for Life by Max Enhrmann)

Songs of Spring is held at The Art Shop, Cross Street, Abergavenny until 30 March.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

I love the blue donkey…

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