Participating Artists – Nick Bright, Marcus Jefferies, Simone Fontana Reis, Tamsin Relly, Bronwen Sleigh

Vista brings together five artists each exploring different aspects of interior and exterior landscapes. Landscape has been a subject of fascination for artists for several centuries and this exhibition offers a series of fresh perspectives on how artists today are looking at the world around us. What unfolds is a conversation about how contemporary landscapes might be defined through works of art in painting, drawing, photography, print and sculpture.

The paintings of Tamsin Relly displayed in Vista particularly foreground the ways that man has impacted upon and transformed the natural world for social and economic benefit. Her fluid and lyrical oil paintings on canvas depict imagery inspired by places as diverse as the manmade oases of the Las Vegas desert and the melting glaciers of the Arctic Circle – issues of global impact and concern. An ethereal atmosphere within Relly’s paintings, emphasised by drips of paint and a contrast between pale, glowing colours and vibrant greens, are indicative of the damage to and loss of many natural landscapes all over the globe.

In contrast, Nick Bright’s square format black and white photographs take a much more personal view of landscape. His works, from the series Marks, act as a guidebook to the landscape, a guidebook written by his late brother. Like Relly, Bright’s images of abandoned objects in natural landscapes contain a palpable sense of loss or absence, albeit a sense deeply rooted in his own family history. In this way, Bright’s photographs are as much connected to the art historical tradition of working with still life objects as they are landscape. Bright’s works are intensely focussed studies of quiet moments within the landscape – resonant experiences of a place motivated by emotional memories. 

A more graphic approach to landscape can be found in works by Marcus Jefferies and Bronwen Sleigh. Both artists’ works fall under more contemporary definitions of landscape that also encompass urban environments. Jefferies and Sleigh take influence from architectural plans, blueprints and three-dimensional models for the two-dimensional works they have produced for Vista. Jefferies’ works are composed of geometric shapes, either balanced on a fine point or on thin stilts. His stripped-down backgrounds place greater emphasis on the architectural forms than the natural landscapes that surround them.

While Jefferies focuses on architectural impossibilities – individual forms that are almost buildings within a strange landscape – Sleigh combines elements from a range of sources to build more complex, collage-like scenes. Sleigh’s drawings and paintings pull together windows, roofs and staircases with more ambiguous components of diverse architectural structures. Her work echoes the sense of flux found within urban environments everywhere – a constant process of demolition and building. The works are suggestive of an attempt to record different types of landscape for the archives before they are lost for ever.

Some of the blurred lines between the abstracted and figurative depiction of landscape can be found in the paintings of Simone Fontana Reis. These paintings of imaginary places combine a variety of painting techniques from thin, translucent washes of paint and smudged marks, to thickly applied impasto. Her works typically feature trees, floorboards, curtains, demolition sites and building façades. Reis borrows motifs from a range of aspects of landscapes, sometimes adopting, like Sleigh and Jefferies, a graphic stylistic. All of Reis’ paintings, though, also include a large abstract, alien-like, form. Moving her paintings beyond naturalistic views of landscape, these additions radically alter the nature of the works, transforming them into curious in-between places of possibility.

Vista offers the unique opportunity to engage with a variety of approaches to and views of landscape through the works of Relly, Bright, Jefferies, Sleigh and Reis.