Chalk, flint, clay, shore -
artists working in Sussex
The inspiration for these works started out on a very large piece of Fabriano paper - about 10 feet by 6 feet. Shelagh made marks, limiting herself to using beautifully sharpened pencils, really concentrating on the feel of the pencil on the paper and the nature of the marks she was making. It was a deliberately slow, thoughtful process. After several days the paper was covered and she then tore it carefully into pieces and collaged these on to a new, large piece of paper.
Shelagh had no preconceived ideas when she started her mark making. it was only towards the end of covering the first piece of paper that she started to think about woodlands, wilderness, the awakening of primeval landscapes, and the seethe of life that exists in these places. As she collaged the torn pieces, images started to emerge and Shelagh followed the lines and shapes of the marks to lead her towards more recognisable images which were then layered with oil bars, very aged newspapers and bits of lichen. Using mark making, tearing, juxtaposing and layering, Shelagh's work has continued to develop.
"What to put in the spaces between the trees and plants is a preoccupation as I reflect upon the moving air and what floats and drifts in it: particles of leaf and bark, teeny bits of feather, a fraction of a leaf skeleton, the tiniest shavings of stone, weeny shards of snail shell, snips of leaf veins, desiccated petals, empty seed husks light as a ladybird's wing - a flummery of teeny, weeny pieces floating, whirling, pirouetting, drifting ascending, sweep across warm air speckled with pinheads of pollen. A curdle of little histories, end notes of seasons, faded papery swansongs. Just as in the wilderness, ideas float and pirouette in my mind, tumbling, drifting, settling on the page."
Two of Shelagh's works were selected for the National Open Art exhibition November 2016, in The Mercers' Hall in London.
"These little paintings emerged after drawing for 20 minutes a day to see what would emerge from my sub-conscious - an exercise encouraged by Andrzej Jackowski. He advocates this as a way to "access the unconscious" and "to tap into patterns of underlying thinking." He assured those of us in his class that images would be waiting - and he was right. After a few sessions I found myself using oil bars to juxtapose and layer colour, eventually recognizing that the colours I made were those of the landscapes where I had grown up in Northern Ireland - teals, mosses, burnt sepias, slates and heathery mauves.
These initial sketchbook experiments grew to encompass memories of the farmhouse where I had lived. At first I didn't realise what the little white houses with few windows and sometimes no doors, which had crept into my work were, but they were compelling. I eventually realised that they were symbols of the house where I had spent my childhood and where my father had died after living there for fifty years.
I am also inspired by the poetry of Seamus Heaney who lived locally and who recommended that you should "trust the feel of what rubbed treasure your hands have known" and that is what I have tried to do here. Thus these paintings are repositories for my emotional responses to the treasure I have gleaned from Irish landscapes."