Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Oil on board 91 x 121.5cm
At the Cranley Gallery in Cork Street, Peter Spens' exhibition Site Specific is  a dazzling and animated display of cityscapes and landscapes and seascapes. But the sea, the mountains, the rivers and buildings seem not be hanging around as if waiting to be painted. Spens gets the essence of what it's like to be there on that specific night or day. This is equally true of his work on the Jubilee Festival and the Olympics.

In this picture Westminster shares the limelight with the river Thames.It's dazzlingly colourful: the sky echoes the  quivering river reflections, the lights blaze wholeheartedly from those windows and streetlamps. And we're up high - not on the famous Waterloo Eye which you can glimpse (to the right) on the south side of the river where I live, but atop the Millbank tower. The artists describes  'battling high winds and wild weather 380 feet up with a painting board in my arms'. From this vantage point buildings press breathlessly against each other, receding into the distance, giving the work an immediacy which allows a shallow canvas to lead us deep into the city.

Below is Morning, Eigergletscher 2011 , which is another scene it is my good fortune to know well. And a scene which has inspired artists many many times over the centuries. What I like about this painting is that, without detracting in anyway from the sheer sturdiness and  weightiness of the mountains, there's an element of playfulness and joy.  When talking of his work as a painter he maintains 'you must be clumsy in love': artist as risk taker, ebulient, immediate, but without underminng the deep seriousness of the work itself.
Oil on Board 22.5 x 40.5
The exhibition catalogue has an interesting introduction by Olivia Hetreed.  the screenwriter who won awards for her adaptation of Tracey Chevalier's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring. Her radical new version of Wuthering Heights,  opens shortly.

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