The new exhibition at New Road’s Rye Creative Centre – Supernature – opens today, Friday January 31, after its first showing at The Auxiliary Gallery in Middlesbrough as part the “Conversations in Painting: Fiesta MK2;” a celebration of painters and painting which included an ambitious programme of four exhibitions, several artists’ talks and a symposium at the Northern Art School.
Supernature takes its title from the 1977 disco track by Cerrone – an unexpected way of opening up a discussion about some seriously pressing issues. The song lyrics could be straight out of science fiction, but even back in 1977 (and much earlier) there was awareness of a developing environmental crisis…
“Maybe nature has a plan to control the ways of man”*
Supernature brings together four painters who explore various personal and political aspects of the impact of man on nature and conversely the impact of the natural environment on us as individuals and on humanity. Once fantastical ideas offered by science fiction have quickly become scientific fact and sometimes even seem unimaginative compared to current scientific research and predictions. In this exhibition these artists explore and question their relationship to the natural environment and encourage us to consider our own responses.
“Will there be a happy end, now that all depends on you”*
Susan Absolon studied at Central St Martins and is now based in Deal, Kent, and in 2012 she was awarded the Juliet Gomperts Trust bursary and exhibits across the UK. She paints, writes and also makes ceramics. These three strands to her creative practice are closely interlinked and she has written the following short text in relation to her work for the exhibition:
“Be aware of the time it was,
And the names of those present.
Leave nothing unsaid.
The shape and colour
Of the shadows as they pass
Will help you tell the story.
And in telling the story,
Process the grief you will feel.”
Susan Absolon’s painting “Standing Rock” (above right) takes its title from the 2016-17 Sioux Indian Dakota Access Pipeline protest. It’s a painting that reflects on mortality, personal loss, the environment and patriarchal power.
Joe Packer studied at the Royal College of Art (MA Fine Art 1994) and now works from his studio in St Leonards. He has exhibited widely including having work selected for the Celeste art prize and the John Moores painting prize and was also first prize winner of the Contemporary British painting prize 2018.
“At the house I grew up in,” Joe Packer says, “You could walk straight out of the back door into a wood. It was in a small place called Shottesbrooke in Berkshire. Childhood memories involve being in the enclosed, interior/exterior space of a wood. The filtering of light through trees and foliage.” He says his paintings are not of those places, but he thinks of them collectively as “some sort of landscape and somehow connected to places familiar to me where I grew up.”
Paula MacArthur trained at the Royal Academy where she was awarded the Royal Academy schools prize for painting. She also received first prize at the National Portrait Gallery portrait award and was a prize winner in the John Moores 18, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Her work is held in several permanent collections.
Her most recent work explores the imperfections in natural geometric patterns; in earlier paintings she had focussed on the ways in which natural forms have been refined and ‘perfected’ by the human hand.
Though based on natural forms the objects she portrays appear alien and unfamiliar inviting questions around the increasing disconnect between humanity and nature.
Paul Smith was born in Sunderland and is now based in Twickenham. His work was shortlisted for the Contemporary British Painting prize in 2016 and the Jackson’s Open art competition in both 2016 and 2019.
Paul says “My work documents my interest in the lost and the found, what is passing out of memory and what is synthesised as trace in the landscape. Exploring lost places and capturing the essence of a moment of abandonment has been part of my practice since my earliest work, photographing the post-industrial landscape of the North East. More recently I have used these explorations of localities on the verge of returning to unofficial wilderness in dialogue with found material.”
Supernature continues from 12 noon -7:30pm weekdays in the gallery at Rye Creative Centre until 28 February.
*Lyrics, Supernature, Cerrone, 1977
Image Credits: Rye Creative Centre , Susan Absolon , Joe Packer , Paula MacArthur , Paul Smith .