Dawn Over the Copse, ©John O’Grady 2015
8″ x 8″ x 1.5″, oil on deep edged panel, ready to hang.
I have often spoken about how memory of place enters into much of my work but the memory of a place is often filtered by time and the love of particular paintings carried round in my mind. These also play a crucial role in what I end up making.
There is a core of artists I look at often, when I am stuck and don’t know how to move forward or just to look at for pleasure. Many are female artists: Helen Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin, Gwen John and the great Joan Eardley.
While painting this work, her paintings came flooding back and especially her energetic treatment of foreground and that often used phrase ‘a sense of place’ she captured in her work.
When looking at her work, Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ comes to mind. This title seems to fit perfectly her work even though I’m not sure I understand fully its meaning. It seems to be like a force of nature erupting onto the paint surface, her work appears fearless and full of energy and yet its treatment is so sensitive.
All of Joan’s landscapes and seascapes were painted outdoors. Grass and seed heads are mixed into the paint, probably picked from where she was standing. They add texture, combining real and painted imagery.
One of my particular favourites. Painted near Catterline, a small fishing village south of Aberdeen where she spent much of her time from the 1950s. The work is verging on the abstract.
Can you feel the life force surging through these pieces? She is in these paintings, heart and soul bared
for all to see.
You can see over 100 of Joan’s paintings here.
These tour de force paintings are big, well over 100 cm and painted outdoors in extremes of weather. She must have been a determined and tough character but I think that comes through in the work too. Unfortunately she died when still in full artistic flow. Who knows what might have lay ahead for her.
These paintings and many others are like dear friends that continue to give me support and nourishment in my own work.
‘Dawn over the Copse’ has a different mood, quieter. It captures the atmosphere and light at the start of day. Influences surface in unexpected ways, filtered through our own temperament.
I would love to hear what you think.