Friday, April 10, 2020

Something To Look At: Ruth Brownlee

I'm finding this lockdown harder as it goes on. Not really knowing what to expect from it, or how long it will last for, have not been as difficult to deal with as I imagined, but the reality of having to stay put as bad news starts to come in is really difficult. Phone calls, cards, emails, etc are all well and good, but they're not the same as a hug or sitting over an actual cup of tea, and it's to easy to say you're okay, and to accept that response from other people when you really know it isn't. 

I am okay, honestly. My flat is comfortable, I have plenty to do, no shortage of people to reach out to, and whilst bad news has got close enough to underline just how important social distancing is, my immediate world is still intact. It is making me more than ever grateful for the things I do have and one of those id being able to take a great deal of joy in looking at nice things.

I've known Ruth for a longish time now, she moved to Shetland in 1998 and I think I first met her there a few years later. I'd already discovered her work by then, and first bought it after another period of being housebound (after an operation that meant weeks of not being really able to leave my flat because I wasn't meant to go up or down stairs). One of her paintings was my celebration to mark being able to get about again.

What I like about Ruth's work is how she approaches landscapes in a way that is both abstract and representational. If you follow her Instagram it's easy to trace the landscape she photographs in the images she paints, but the effects of light and weather are far more important than landmarks which makes it easy for the viewer to impose their own memories and connections to northern landscapes far beyond Shetland on them. 

I do think of these as quintessentially northern images, but that also reflects my experiences and the connections I can't help but make to them. I think it's quite possible that other viewers will find echos of other places and moods to the ones I see. My partner always thinks of Caithness when he looks at her moorland paintings, and if I see the North Sea and the Atlantic in the way the light falls, it is defiantly because that's what I know. 

Something else about her paintings, even on a small scale, they change constantly with the light that falls on them, which sometimes gives the impression of watching a landscape through a window rather than that of it being a static image in a frame. 

Most of Ruth's work these days goes straight to galleries and exhibitions - you can find more details on her website. She does sometimes sell limited edition prints which you can normally find out about via her Instagram, and she's currently having a studio clear out and selling things for the artists support pledge scheme through facebook. If you're interested you need to be quick though - she sells fast. 

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