For this blog post, Outside In artist Ivan Grieve has chosen to discuss the works of artists Gavin Blench and Stewart Geddes, which are equally similar as they are different. Geddes is a professionally trained artist and is currently President of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA). Geddes’ work has parallels with that of Blench, an artist currently exhibiting in Alternative Visions: Undiscovered Art from the South West, Outside In’s touring exhibition in collaboration with Arts & Health South West and Bristol Culture. The exhibition continues at Poole Museum until 6 May.
“I have chosen to look at the work of Stewart Geddes, who takes inspiration from urban settings, and Gavin Blench, who works almost exclusively in rural settings. Both artists are interested in abstracting form. There are moments of stillness and peace in both of their works; Geddes seems to note it, with an open and free approach, whereas Blench is seeking to find peace in his subjects. Blench searches for signs of order through meticulous brush strokes and line, whereas Geddes has an understanding and a confidence that allows moments of peace to be uncovered by the viewer.
Geddes work is a form of abstracted expressionism, which at times could almost be an urban biopsy set out before us. There is a magnetic freedom and excitement in Geddes’ work. Colours are allowed to speak through and over each other, to find their place with each other, in a natural order.
The weathered charm in the textures and colours is to be relished along with the explorative journey across the surface of the work. The choice of materials – acrylics in more recent works – allows new approaches to the city or urban world set in a wider context. Geddes uses a unique layering of colour, encouraging them to shine through one another, drawing the eye further in. There are echoes of places perhaps never seen by the viewer that reverberate in the mind’s eye.
The sensual nature of Geddes’ approach is generous in that it allows the viewer to reach their own conclusions on their own terms, which is a very rewarding quality to enjoy.
Geddes draws on the wealth of traces of human existence that pour across an urban landscape, against a rural backdrop, to give a rich seam for abstracted forms and colours. Perhaps a torn billboard poster or a flapping corrugated iron fence is what is captured momentarily? Using less rigid line allows for a softer dialogue with the work which is married with an exuberance and confidence in his use of colour.
Knightstone is like seeing two scenes next to each other; a figure is possibly sitting on hill watching the sun go down over a city (on the left of the work). Next to this, there appears to be figures standing – maybe they are waiting for a bus or outside some shops. They are bathed in an interesting light. Beebe is full of rush and movement. It seems loud and urgent through the use of colour and line. Perhaps a busy street in the evening car tail lights and indicators, yet there is a stillness behind the zooming and hooting.
Blench’s work focuses on place. He uses an abstracted style with boundaries to generate forms that encompass brooding tone and the colour. In places, colours seem to be set together to form a representation of a sensation; of a specific time and place. There is a sense of silence in some works – perhaps the viewer can almost hear the wind.
Blench’s horizons and skylines give a sense of space; marked divisions filled with acres of solitude. In places, one can recognise clear demarcations of time and place.
An order is sort through a measured cadence of line and space, which is to some extent reflected in Blench’s measured application of oils – it would be very rewarding to see some of the plein air drawings that he works from. Blench manages to document the human intrusions that have been made through time and across nature. His works are a deeply personal yet abstracted social documentation.
Blench almost personalises his subjects for the viewer, working in a fairly subjective style in his landscapes, paying homage to certain elements in a subtle way. Man’s impositions on the landscape seem to take on an almost irreverent aspect in these works.
Hallscleave Morning is a good example of the sense of foreboding and yet familiarity that Blench portrays in his work. The line of a path takes the viewer to the horizon, and a sensitivity in tone gives the scene an air of tranquility and calm.
The use of colour in Lover’s Combe drew my attention, initially they seemed outlandishly bold and yet after a moment the eye is soothed by the lines and forms in the work. This piece is a good example of how the artist conveys his knowledge of the scene – I imagine he might visit many times.
In the works of both artists consideration for human imposition on the natural world is a feature, though the approach and conclusions differ. In these works – though they are so very different – there are wonderful opportunities to pause for thought.