As ever the basis for Impey’s work is personal experience but this exhibition sees the images become increasingly and overtly allegorical and cautionary. In ‘From The Sky… A Lance of Flame’ a comet hurtles towards the water, whilst a barren ancient tree is submerged by the rising tides in 'The Uppermost Boughs of Ancient Trees’.
Through Impey’s handling, these motifs become unmistakably symbolic. Evocative charcoal studies of turbulent waters in the ‘Night Wave’ series are placed alongside visions of a doomed sunken tower in ‘Babel (After CruylDeckerKircher)’. According to myth; The Tower of Babel was built by the descendants of Noah, who spoke one language. They thought they could build a high tower and reach the heavens where they would sit alongside God. But God was enraged by their presumptions and he scattered them around the world, giving them all different languages thus causing confusion, intolerance and ensuing mayhem.
A rock on the horizon morphs into the sculptural, classical profile of ‘Reason’ drowning; whilst abstracted, looser brushwork describes a swirling mist and squall in the mixed-media series 'The Rising’. The works which give the show it’s enigmatic title; ‘The Boatman Calls’ features a lone figure heading out to sea on the calm waters after a storm. The stillness feels final as he strikes out across the glassy waters to sound his call. Is he asking for help or signalling danger? Or with resignation simply bidding a farewell?
What could be seen as a random arrangement of imagery is held together by a poetic narrative composed by Impey, which forms a narrative thread to the exhibition:
"A dream it seemed to me, a night so cold trees turned to white before my eyes. Frost rimed the land and air, and the ancient tree. Waters rose, and perceiving Reason’s noble visage drowning neath the waves, we took ship to ride out the storm… returned light displayed the uppermost boughs of mighty trees piercing the surface of dark waters… from the sky without a sound a lance of flame, and neath there jiggered sabbath shapes.
Abandoned Babel, submerged in evening depths… and a solitary boatman, dark before a setting sun, approaches on a sea of glass, and sounds a final horn… the boatman calls…”
Of the origins of this visionary text Impey states;
"Like the desert, where religions form, the open ocean asks of the imagination a narrative. Observations on my journeys hinted at the fragments of a story… another story, or perhaps another’s story… It seemed to me I garnered traces, or echoes of it, on a white winters night in England, in Biscay, and in the waters of the Mediterranean on a voyage which turned out to be the last I would ever make with Trevor Vincett, a friend and mentor over so many ocean miles. This exhibition is dedicated to his memory”
Impey’s mastery of the sea continues to captivate and enthrall but more notably ‘The Boatman Calls’ can be read as a quietly but no less emphatically pertinent call to arms. There is a profound sense of surrendering to a story that may have now already been told, but within these glassy passages there remains space for contemplation, where we are compelled to examine ourselves, perhaps in that we are offered a glimmer of hope.