John Hitchens and Anthony Garratt

5th April 2017

Exploring the Land: Two Ways of Seeing

Exhibition dates:                Saturday 13 May — Saturday 17 June 2016

Private View:                          Saturday 13 May, 3 pm—8pm

This joint exhibition explores the way two artists have responded to the landscape of Sussex both of them painting en plein aire in an expressive spontaneous manner. John Hitchen’s work in the exhibition spans a 45 year period from the 1970s to the present day and presents a retrospective of his evolving style. Anthony’s paintings were all completed over the last year.

Although he has painted much further afield, John’s work is deeply influenced by the landscape surrounding his home in West Sussex. He also spent several weeks each summer staying at Pagham harbor and in the 1970s created a series of paintings capturing the atmospheric effects of the beach and salt marshes especially at dawn and dusk. The paintings in the exhibition begin with his early representational works through his increasing experiments in abstraction where sky and horizon are lost in broad gestural brush strokes, at times the flattened picture plane opening into glimpses of distant vistas.

In John’s latest work, gestural evocations of the land are expressed in complex compositions of flat articulate colour. Reuniting these works separated by so many years reveals fascinating connections and relationships. The paintings display recurring themes, the rhythms of the seasons, the structure of the land, vistas glimpsed through deep woodland, lines of strata and sediment, contour lines of hills and fields. The exhibition is an homage to John’s continuing absorption with the organic, changing nature of the landscape whether on a grand sweeping scale or reduced to abstracted patterns of plough lines and hedge rows. The artist’s eye is continually searching and exploring, never content to stand still as John himself says, ‘everything that has gone before is part of what is now’.

Anthony’s work by contrast is concerned primarily with the weather, and the physical experience and impact of a landscape. He researches his paintings by exposing himself to the elements, winter storms, summer heat, racing tides, scudding clouds and eery moonlight. A trip to Sussex last year inspired him to return and create the work for this show.

For Anthony, South Sussex from the downs to the coast offered an abundance of sensory information. Starting at Petworth House, what immediately struck him is that the grassy hills and lines from pathways excavated by Capability Brown are echoed naturally further South as he headed through the Downs. As the light hits and shifts around the lake in front of Petworth House, the eye is naturally led from tree to curve, to water, to sky and in some respects the landscape has already been painted.

‘Painting the coast from Sesley to West Wittering is a fascinating and atmospheric journey which feels far removed from the rolling hills of the Downs’, he explained. Massive vistas and salt marshes enable the experience of raw weather where the continually changing landscape is molded by the tidal state and weather. ‘The paintings are an impulsive reaction to visiting somewhere for the very first time and capturing the most immediate senses; the sound underfoot, the movement of the weather and land, the smell of the marshes and sea’, he continued

Anthony works by splattering and dribbling, paint across canvases, sometimes mixed with earth and sand, and rust. Often working in the open air, brushes, knives, fingers, palette knives, all play their part and from the seeming chaos an image gradually emerges.

 

Notes on the Artists

John Hitchens

John Hitchens grew up in Graffham, West Sussex and studied at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham Court.    Both his father Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) and his grandfather Alfred Hitchens (1861-1942) were painters and his son Simon Hitchens is a Sculptor. The wooded Sussex landscape nestling below the South Downs has been a major influence on his work but he also spent extended periods painting in Scotland and South Wales. He began his career as a figurative landscape painting but began experimenting with abstraction in the late 1970s.   From 1990 he has painted in a fully abstract style with a restricted palette of earth pigments. John’s work was exhibited throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s at the Marjorie Parr Gallery and Montpellier Galleries in London and the John Paul Gallery in Chichester. His work is in numerous public collections, including Brighton Art Gallery, Bradford City Art Gallery, Brasenose College Oxford, Chase Manhattan Bank New York, and the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne

Anthony Garratt

Anthony studied at Chelsea College of Art, followed by Falmouth College of Arts for a design degree. Having worked as a designer for a few years he decided to become a fulltime painter. He is a member of the Royal West of England Academy where he has exhibited regularly. He has also shown at the RA Summer Exhibition and the Royal College of Arts Henry Moore Gallery. ‘This is Bristol’ listed Anthony Garratt ‘as the next David Hockney’. Anthony was invited to paint the Diamond Jubilee Pageant from the Millennium Bridge.  He has been involved in three inspirational outdoor projects. In September 2014 – Alfresco on Tresco in which he worked on four massive paintings in the open air, leaving them in situ exposed to the elements for four months. He followed this with a similar project from March – October 2015 FOUR Angelsey in North Wales. In 2016 he completed High Low an installation in the Snowdonia National Park which consisted of one enormous outdoor painting which was left floating on lake Llyn Llydaw.and a second painting suspended in a near by disused coal mine. The installations attracted huge media coverage including BBC & ITV news. Anthony has had numerous highly successful shows throughout the UK.