Earlier this week I delivered two paintings and a sketchbook to the Green Man Gallery in Buxton, as submissions for this year’s Buxton Spa Prize. The exhibition of entries runs from 1-31 July (The Green Man Gallery is at Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Square South, Buxton Spa, Derbyshire. SK17 6PY).
My first painting is ‘The Illuminating Light’, a view of the Church of St Mary the Virgin from Heath Street in Buxton. I came upon the building enfolded in its own paddock like a peaceful interlude from the surrounding busy roads and residential terraces. It reminded me of interwar children’s illustrations – Enid Blyton perhaps. Initially I was eager to portray the front elevation with its architectural details – arts and craft style dormer windows and heavy porch. But after much deliberation and at the eleventh hour, a prospect exclaimed itself at the opposite side of the building. The, by now, low sun had illuminated the trees from behind in such a way that the branches were lining the sky and their leaves were showering down in greens and golds against the silhouetted form of the church. Although in deep shadow, it radiated warmth from the reflected light of the surrounding grass, now sunlit and setting the building apart from the heavy shadows of the boundary wall. This wall and the tree trunks to the fore provided an edging to the building. Beyond the wall, strong radial marks flooded over the pavement, reminiscent of the sunburst motif beloved of the period the church belonged to.
The second painting, ‘Filtered’, looks along the cast iron and glass canopy of The Colonnade on Terrace Road in Buxton. This structure runs alongside the Cavendish Arcade, formerly the Thermal Baths that were built in 1852-53 on the site of the Roman Baths.
The Colonnade creates a semi-enclosed space that is also open to natural light. The brilliant sunshine on this day gave lovely warm colours to the buildings and sky, which were filtered by the overhead glass panes into something paler and less focused. Shadows thrown into the road by the translucent roof structure were ameliorated into pastel shades. Further interest came from reflections in the shop window panes, where the natural hues of the buildings opposite were deepened. The cast iron struts of the canopy extend into these reflections, creating the impression of walking through an enormous rib cage. The black supporting uprights were also reflected in the window glass with their arching forms echoed in the dark painted window frames. These uprights, the receding flags, paving stones and glass roof divisions enhance the sense of perspective. I loved the various types of light and imagery, filtered and unfiltered, that this prospect offered. Metaphorically, the shop windows are also offering a filtered vision to passers-by and ultimately there is the filtering of the artists eye.