The Devon Paintings

by Martha Kapos

The question Amanda Welch has put to herself – ‘how to put edges around endlessness’ is one that has governed landscape painting at least since Post-Impressionism. Her answer to this, however, seems to me quite new. You walk up a hill and then see the valley below, walk down into the valley and then see the shape of the wood you were standing in front of: a shape which also changes while you walk. None of this would be met by the static nature of the tradition: the landscape painter’s eye arrested and stopped in front of a single view. What if you wanted a kind of painting truer to the painter’s walking eye, a painting closer to the experience of landscape as we actually enter it and circulate within it? What if you wanted all of these images and shapes together within the same surface, within the same pictorial whole? And what if the pictorial whole was something you wanted to develop in its own right in a series of paintings?

The Devon paintings (1997-2006), which relate to an area near Braunton, don’t deliver what we expect from landscape painting, because they don’t make a resemblance to static ‘shots’ of landscape an aim. Nor are they exercises in simplification or abstraction from landscape forms seen from a fixed view. Scale is often mysterious and hard to pin down. Are we looking at the large or the small, objects or spaces, a series of pebbles, the brow of a hill, or the back of an animal? Reds, pinks, yellows or blacks often predominate over landscape greens, browns or blues. ‘The choices I made are not summaries. I am simply saying I want something from this tree… this field… this wood.’ She may use elements or suggestions from appearance, but she combines these with more schematic signs, notations and even words.

She describes the paintings as ‘an imaginary space alluding to a real space… made out of palpable stuff, pigment having colour and texture.’ They reflect an unselfconscious energy which allows things to happen on the canvas without her knowing ahead of time what they might look like – all of which makes one feel that the artist may be as taken by surprise as the viewer.