Gaze, glimpse - a look at landscape exhibition
Richard Whadcock studied on a fine art course at Bristol Art College gaining a grounding in painting and printmaking. At that stage he preferred printmaking which lead him to undertake a Masters Degree in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art from 1989 - 91 working in intaglio and more and more in lithography.
The direct nature of lithography also started to draw him back to painting as well. The working structure of printmaking has, to some degree, found its way into Richard's approach to painting from the preparation of a painting surface, hand wiping etching plates to hand wiping paintings. He pares down anything that is insignificant to the bare essentials for the image to work.
Early influences which have stayed with him are artists such as Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Milton Avery, Vermeer, Turner and Rembrandt.
Richard's studio is in Lancing so he doesn't have to go far to reach the South Downs to gather source material. Sussex has an undulating landscape but it does rise to peaks such as Chanctonbury Ring, Devils Dyke and Ditchling Beacon Hill which have drawn Richard back time after time.
His fascination for landscape lies in the way it can morph into different states within minutes. It is these transitions from one state to another that his paintings deal with, small periods of time, not a singular moment as such. They are also not meant to be of a particular place, hence the rarity with which they are titled with a geographical name. Richard's aim is for his paintings to evoke a sense of place, perhaps in memories of somewhere seen; to describe a feeling and atmosphere. The viewer too brings something to a painting; the painting draws it out of you only to deliver you back through the layers of light and depth.
Mainly Richard's works start from sketches, photographs or memories of a walk, all just reference points to initially put something down on canvas, panel or paper. However, before he starts, the painting surface has to be right. He primes any surface many times to hide canvas weave and to produce a substantial surface that will take hold of the marks he makes but also to allow the free movement of paint when necessary. He can trace this process back to the connection with the surface needed to draw on with lithography stones and plates. While some paintings start from a white surface many are now coloured with perhaps an orange, a deeper mars orange or a raw umber wash. Layers are built up of thin glazes of usually a limited palette. The primed base colours are then allowed to influence the top glazes or are completely obliterated only to be revealed again as layers are then sanded back or drawn through whilst still wet. Richard uses only the best quality materials.
At some point the painting process inevitably takes over and starts to generate the painting's subsequent direction. Original elements can then be reintroduced to the work to give it the solid foundation needed to hold together. Each time a painting is worked on the whole surface is worked on with some areas getting more significant changes and others simply refined.
Knowing when a painting is finished is always tricky. For Richard it has to work as a painting in its own right. If he is happy to come into the studio and look at a work then he knows something is going right. If a painting doesn't make him want to look at every aspect of it then there is some way to go.