Four painters who see water in entirely different ways, each with roughly a quarter of the gallery space in an exhibition that allows the viewer to immerse themselves in one way of seeing after another. Essential for life, the water in these paintings carries energy and a kind of soul. For Janette Kerr, water is deeply dynamic, whipped up the by wind and portrayed in energetic expressionist brush strokes. Vanessa Gardiner’s water is often a well of opaque blue with geometrically divided areas of froth and shadow. Julian Bailey’s joyous seas seem to sparkle and move with thick impasto paint and quick gestural brush strokes. Luke Elwes turns the surface of water into a shimmering meditation.
Julian Bailey is a well established and very popular artist who lives with his family near Dorchester. Born in 1963, he had his first successful exhibition at Malvern Public Library when he was still at school. He studied art at the Ruskin School while attending New College, Oxford and then went on to the Royal Academy Schools where he was awarded the Turner Gold Medal and later the Landseer Scholarship. He had his first one-man show in London in 1991 and has exhibited regularly since, joining Browse & Darby in Cork Street in 1999 as their youngest artist. He and his family moved to Dorset in 1998 when Julian began to paint landscapes, particularly the Dorset coast. In 2011 he was elected to join the New English Art Club and awarded the David Messum Prize. He also won the Manya Igel prize that year. His work is in numerous collections including HRH The Prince of Wales, New College Oxford, Pembroke College Oxford, Reed Executive, Old Mutual Assurance, Daiwa Bank, SG Warburg and more.
Julian Bailey has had three solo shows at Sladers Yard in 2009, 2012 and 2015. He works in oils on board, as well as gouache and pencils on paper. As Vivienne Light has written, ‘ the final results… are whole, true to themselves, emotionally rich and seemingly spontaneous.’ Julian is inspired by the beautiful Dorset coastline, the combination of sea, landscape and the people who inhabit it. His water is full of movement, light and an irresistible ebullient energy.
Janette Kerr RWA RSA Hon is the ultimate sea painter. Her bold expressive work begins outside with the salt in her paint and the sea heaving and crashing around her, the wilder the better. She paints from the rocks or from boats, responding directly to the elements, while also studying archives and talking with the locals, looking for the stories of people who have lived, fished, explored and died there. She is also exceptionally collaborative, working on projects with environmentalists, oceanographers, scientists and other artists to enrich her active engagement with the places she paints.
Janette’s relish for the physical process of drawing and painting can be felt in the dynamic quality of her marks and brushstrokes. She is drawn to the wildness and purity of Northern light, spending part of the year painting in Shetland, where the water is in the wind and the clouds as well as the waves. Her studio is near Bath. Janette Kerr has a PhD in Fine Art. She is an Honorary Royal Scottish Academician, Past President of the Royal West of England Academy of Art and a Visiting Research Fellow, Fine Art, UWE Bristol. She has a long-standing history of showing work, exhibiting regularly across the UK and abroad. Her work is held in national and international collections. She has worked on residencies in Somerset, Wales, Ireland, Shetland, Norway and Svalbard and has curated high profile exhibitions and their accompanying programmes.
Vanessa Gardiner also paints wild romantic places where cliffs tower above rocky seas with deep shadows and white spume. On Cornwall, Portland and the Isle of Skye, she finds headlands and dramatic landmarks that project into deep turquoise seas. In contrast to the weathered rocks and windblown grasses which Vanessa works up with texture and colour, the opaque turquoise blues of the sea in her paintings seem to speak of the implacable essential mystery of life.
Vanessa Gardiner paints in a dynamic geometric style enlivened further with lyrical curving lines of hills and pathways. Her paint may be opaque or more translucent and weathered, scoured and scored, washed back and reapplied, to give surfaces like those of a pebble on the beach. Seductive in colour, texture and composition, these paintings are deepened and intensified by memory. They explore what is known and felt when experiencing the raw beauty of the place. Gardiner’s discipline is always to stay true to the landscape as she sees it, keeping her work as fresh and vital as nature itself. Vanessa Gardiner is a well-established painter who has been working as a professional artist for many years. She trained at Oxford Polytechnic and the Central School of Art and Design in London. Her work is in private collections around the world and in public collections across the UK and in Ireland and Athens.
Since the beginning of this year, Luke Elwes has been working on a series of paintings based on the experience of travelling by boat along a stretch of the river Ganges. The Ganga paintings draw on the power of this sacred river flowing through the precarious lives of the people and cultures that have thrived throughout history on its banks. His method of working gives rise, he says, to a mood of reverie. Thinking about climate change, water shortages or floods, the power of the river to give and to take, he makes his gentle marks with rich colours and areas of emptiness. These he dissolves and floats, sometimes with river water or oil paint thinners which he allows to trickle or flow across his paper or canvas. The results seem to reflect light, inviting us to look into them quietly as if they were pools of water. There, nothing is permanent but everything is connected.
Luke Elwes studied history at Bristol University and painting at Camberwell Art School, followed by an MA in Art History at Birkbeck College, London University. He travels extensively, discovering and revisiting remote locations in India, Asia Minor and North Africa. In 1998 he was artist in residence on an expedition to Mount Kailash, a holy mountain in western Tibet. Since 2000 he has worked for long periods on an island off the East Coast of the UK. In 2013 he was awarded a grant to study at the Vermont Studio Center and in 2015 he was resident artist at the Albers Foundation (USA). His work is in collections in the UK, USA and Europe. He exhibits regularly in London and internationally.
Award-winning designer craftsman, Petter Southall has been making his distinctive furniture at his studio outside Bridport since 1991. He makes his designs by hand using an innovative combination of traditional Norwegian boat-building and fine cabinet-making techniques. Petter’s designs have a distinctive Scandinavian confidence and simplicity. He finds unique beautiful pieces of oak, ash, elm and other Northern European hardwoods, often using wood sourced from the local area to the commission. He specialises in steam bending thick solid boards into the arches, twists, curves and rings so striking in his designs. His work is built to last, using honest through-joinery and as little glue as possible. Finished with natural oils and tactile textures, his furniture brings pleasure every day to the home, work place or public space.
Commissions include the directors’ dining room at the National Gallery, the boardroom for Barbican Art Gallery, reception and boardroom furniture for a number of companies and corporations in London and Norway as well as for the Bridport Town Hall. Public art seating for Cambridge Science Park, the Wessex Ridgeway Sculpture Trail, Sanctuaries for Newton Abbott and Minehead Hospitals & the Macmillan Garden at Hereford Hospital as well as many private commissions worldwide.