Last year, I took some of my work to an appraisal evening at my art society. This is an occasional event where members put there work on an easel in public view of an audience who are then invited to make comment. Sometimes the works are fully resolved and framed, sometimes they are works-in-progress. It’s an opportunity to review your current work. It also spurs you to resolve and finish stuff. The discussion is led and facilitated by experienced and respected member-artists. It is a brave thing to do, to experience, both on the part of the artist and the reviewers. It is a very supportive event and also instructive. There is always something to learn. Sometimes surprising things. I took along a selection of work I’d been working on, some featured here in various blog posts. Most had been previously exhibited, so I was confident in my work; a series of landscape prints, a coupleof paintings, a small body of work exploring contours and lines in the landscape.
The comment that hit home for me was the observation that although they were all landscapes, not a single one had a horizon.
It was obvious as soon as it was pointed out, but it was a revelation. I was completely unaware. Sometimes things have to be pointed out to you. The appraiser was not making a value judgement, just stating the obvious. But they did ask if it was a conscious choice. A very good question. And as it turns out, a very personal one.
Some years ago my horizon was taken away from me rather abruptly by a sudden change in health. I had been a mountaineer, canoeist and rock climber, all my interests had always been outdoors. In the space of a couple of months, I suddenly found myself inside, struggling through recovery and focussing on getting back to work. No more mountain activities. My life turned indoors. That could have been very difficult and depressing, but I didn’t allow myself to wallow. I started sketching again. If I couldn’t be active outdoors, I could sit in the landscape and draw. I could find the outdoors through pencil and paint. Drawing then led me back to painting and printmaking. I could develop, meet people, exhibit, find a new voice. I could search for horizons within.
And all the while, I had been exploring the lack of external horizon in my work without realising just how important and personal that is. Very sobering and there followed a lot of reflection.
I will still produce work in that series, but I have begun to challenge myself a little, to explore skies, tree lines and perspective in my sketchbook.