Travel and painting is an inspirational combination, with dangers and pitfalls of the unknown adding excitement to each piece of work.
Yesterday I had the pleasure at attending a new exhibition of the work of Lyme Regis-based mixed-media artist Julie Oldfield. As aside from enjoying the possibilities inherent in 'mixed media' (a focus for me during my festival curation years at The Big Chill and beyond), it is arguably an approach to art that offers a range of exciting directions and a sense of connection to the possibilities of nature, travel and the randomness inherent in both.
What stands Julie Oldfield's apart is that she been using the patination of metal sheets as a foundation for my mixed media paintings and this exhibition shows her work on Brass, Copper, Aluminium and Stainless Steel. The process is continued, often over months, with Julie subjecting her work to the mercy of the elements by leaving them standing in her garden, often taking some months for the weathering process to take its course.
"Using metal has been the best mimic of sky luminance that I have found. It has been an exciting journey to explore"
Living on the Jurassic Coast near Lyme Regis, much of her work is inspired by the coast's large skies and changing tones. Her paintings often incorporate materials and earth fabric from the area, providing a unique character to each piece. Her most recent work however, is produced on metal, incorporating oxidization and copper. Raised on a farm in England, the play of light, on open spaces and changing weather conditions made a strong impression from an early age.
"I often use acids and alkalis to accelerate or change the chemistry on the metals. The resulting colours inspire different ideas and images that I then develop."
Julie's approach is one that sees art of a journey, which also befits her experience as a traveller well, having recently been in the Himalayas, Sri Lanka and Mexico, as well as her project to travel along 37 degrees latitude for a year which took her to Capetown, Rio De Janeiro via Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific islands. She moves with nature, whether it be light, tides, currents or earth's natural textures, rain, sand or snow, crafting the art of her canvasses around the tactile sensation that incorporating her travels and natural elements make her art spontaneous, real and gritty.
Working and living with the local people, helps to develop an understanding of the mood and soul of the country and the environment. Her approach contains three key elements:
- Travelling beyond the familiar
- Pushing and illustrating boundaries
- Landscapes and the social interaction with the scenery
"I have always enjoyed the spectacle and variety of changing skies and how weather, along with the time of day and season, plays with the light. Every moment is unique in detail, yet has a consistency of weather repetition and character that we respond to with various emotions – joy, awe, fascination and even fear when in extreme weather.
Living on the Jurassic Coast, the sea gives reflections and an increased luminance, as well as an horizon that exposes the sky to its full potential, making a special visual experience.
As an artist, I want to capture the different moods that skies give, especially the translucence and colours of a low sun through clouds, and its play of light on the sea. My images are not intended to be exact records, like a photograph. My work gives an impression of the environment, intended to provoke contemplation and an emotional response."
"Over the last few years I have been developing my own experimental techniques to do this. My work increasingly uses mixed media on metal sheets - typically copper, brass and aluminum. Some of my new work uses stainless steel; hence ‘Four Metals’ as my exhibition title. The metal sheets are heated and treated with various chemicals to produce different colours and textures as a foundation, before sprays and pastels are added.
Treating and exposing the base metal in different ways gives a distinctive quality to my paintings. These experimental techniques also have unpredictable and unforeseen results that can inspire the development of each image. I am pleased with the results of using stainless steel as a new base material and am looking forward to showing these at the exhibition.
I am constantly experimenting and refining my arts practice. So far, using metal has been the best mimic of sky luminance that I have found. It has been an exciting journey to explore. While the journey is by no means over, I am pleased with my progress and the paintings I am showing at ‘Four Metals’"
Recently, Julie was invited by Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls to be their Artist in Residence - working alongside students and staff in the Art Department, inspiring them with her stunning landscape paintings on metal and canvas.
Julie's week at the school was full of action, spurring the girls' artistic potential and since her departure, a number of exam students responded to her work with superb results.
A full account of Julie's time there may be viewed here.
The 4 Metals exhibition is at The Malthouse Gallery, Lyme Regis, 21st March - 5th April 2019. The exhibition will be open daily, from 10.00am to 4.00pm
Cover photo: Pete Lawrence