Opening this spring, Invisible Landscapes presents new work by artist Edward Hutchison which encourages us to deepen our connection with the natural environment.
Presented across two galleries – Bankside Gallery, London (27 April – 8 May) and The Wykeham Gallery, Stockbridge, Hampshire (25 April – 4 May) – the exhibition brings together over 90 paintings created by the artist over the past two years, which shed light on intimate elements of nature. From the energy of complex root systems to the vigour of the dawn chorus, the life force of ancient oak trees to the harmony of wildflowers, Hutchison creates evocative abstract images in watercolour, favouring this medium for the depth of rich colour achieved by layering individual washes and the “magical challenge” it offers the artist.
Described by Hutchison as ‘conversation pieces to prompt the urban world to take nature seriously’, the artist’s practice has evolved through many years of close observation as he is also an acclaimed landscape architect, the landscape designer for many multidisciplinary projects including The London Eye, The Indoor Cricket School at Lord’s Cricket Ground, the Peace Garden and Herbert Gallery in Coventry and the Main Square with the Médiatèque in Nîmes, France.
For Hutchison, spending time in the landscape is where it must start. “I find it essential to draw, paint and physically experience the landscape in order to form thoughts first hand,” he says, describing how this can be a “humbling experience”. The exhibition opens with drawings and paintings made en plein air, from the Kent countryside to the drama of the Mani Peninsula in Southern Greece.
This leads to research which, for Hutchison, further inspires his practice. To develop a series of soil paintings, the artist carefully observed microbiological activity under a microscope, and the resulting pictures capture the extraordinary vivacity of this ordinarily unseen world.
The ‘wood wide web’ – the discovery by Dr Suzanne Simards of a network of tree roots and fungi that allows trees ‘to talk to each other’ – is imagined as an intricate, linear form, a complex circuit in calm tones.
And in a wonderfully vibrant series entitled ‘The Dawn Chorus’, Hutchison proposes that the symbiotic relationship between birds and plant life extends to the possibility of bird song promoting plant growth – a theory suggested by research showing that the productivity of orange groves is increased if classical music is played in the early stages of growth.
The chorus becomes a “concert” when Hutchison describes an effusion of wildflowers, and the “delight and pleasure” they evoke is captured in paintings which, the artist says, are as much about the complex pattern of spaces between the rich mixture of plants as they are about the colours and shapes of the flowers.
The powerful presence of veteran oak trees in Richmond Park – some of which are over 750 years old – inspires contemplation of their past, explored in paintings focusing on the swirls of their bark and heartwood, and in the ‘Spirit of the Woods’ series, Hutchison seeks to capture “a magical spirit that needs protecting” in the face of on-going deforestation.
It is this advocacy for the environment that underpins Edward Hutchison’s practice. ‘A war artist for environmental causes’ is how the artist has been described, creating paintings with purpose. Hutchison, who attended COP26, cites a lack of understanding amongst decision- makers as being detrimental to the environment, and intends his paintings to be both stimulating and thought-provoking.
Edward Hutchison says:
“Invisible Landscapes is an expression that draws our attention to the need to recognise the hidden energies and powers in landscape, enabling us to live more in harmony with the environment. These energies may be difficult for us to appreciate but with rapid advances in technology elsewhere, it may not be too long before we begin to better understand the intricate mysteries of the living world. These paintings attempt to suggest some of the interesting theories and ideas currently at the edge of common knowledge about landscape.”
Invisible Landscapes: Edward Hutchison opens at Bankside Gallery, London on 27 April (until 8 May) and at The Wykeham Gallery, Hampshire on 25 April (until 4 May). All paintings are for sale.
For further information:
Image: Edward Hutchison, Old Romney Church, Kent