By Gareth Stevens 

Many artists stand back from the subject that fascinates them to view it in its entirety and to best record what they see and feel from a discrete vantage point. However, a few landscape artists have taken a different approach and instead of asking the landscape to ‘sit’ for them, they get inside it. It is said that when painting Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a boat so he could truly experience the heart of a storm at sea before painting it. Whilst soaring and plunging on thermal currents above Cornwall in a glider, Peter Lanyon experienced air and earth in an interminable flux and produced work that reinvented the whole idea of landscape painting.

Immerse II oil on panel 28x73cm by Nick Snelling
PICTURE: Tessa Sambrook

In a similar way, Nick Snelling and Adrienne Hunter literally immerse themselves in the subject matter of their paintings in order to express a more visceral and dynamic vision of the coastal landscape that so obsesses them. 

He said, She said is a joint show which comprises works that are a culmination of various shared drawing and photography missions to Birling Gap. Ostensibly both artists are compelled by the same central themes and experiences, but look beyond that and you will see that their respective outcomes are idiosyncratically different. It is true that both Snelling and Hunter seek to explore the raw experience of being lone swimmers chin deep in rolling waves at the foot of towering cliffs and are both driven to explore the liminal space of a shoreline where sky, land and sea endlessly interact. However, whilst Snelling layers glazes to produce translucent veils of pure colour, bleached by summer sun, Hunter uses an expressive calligraphy to reveal silk-like swells of water and the more unforgiving surface of chalk cliff face. Each artist’s work is distinct; they seem to take similar routes but arrive at slightly different places. By allowing us to contrast and compare both artists’ individual approach to the
same stimuli, this exhibition heightens our appreciation of
both artists’ work.

Late Summer Swim Near Birling Gap 2018 by Adrienne Hunter 67x88cm
PICTURE: Tessa Sambrook

The couple use photography and film to record their initial experience and to capture the unfamiliar and strangely disquieting swimmer’s eye perspective that makes their work so remarkable. In both their work geology is neither static nor dependable and water is always on the verge of completely submerging both artist and viewer. The best paintings pinpoint the balanced interplay between chaos and buoyancy.

Accompanying this exhibition in an adjoining room at blackShed, there are some intriguing photographs of both the artists’ studios by Julian Anderson. These add so much value to the exhibition overall, as they provide an invaluable insight into both the work in progress and the places in which it was created. Similarly, having the exhibition in the same space as these photographs provides an additional dimension to the experience of viewing Anderson’s sublime photographs. 

A visit to blackShed Gallery to see this hugely popular and almost sold-out exhibition is highly recommended.

• He said, She said: a joint exhibition by Nick Snelling and Adrienne Hunter runs at blackShed Gallery from 2nd February – 16th March 2019.

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