Place & Culture – at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire
at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire
9 February - 24 March 2019
Val Archer will be present at Nunnington Hall to meet and chat with people and to give a masterclass on still life painting, on Friday 15 February from 11am-1pm and from 2pm-4pm. Please feel free to bring your own work for advice and appraisal!
Val Archer is one of the most sharp-eyed and scrupulous of contemporary painters. At the same time, she has blurred conventional distinctions between still life, interior and the record of architectural detail in order to develop a highly original and absorbing body of work. Attentive to the aesthetic pleasures of life, she handles paint sensitively and sensuously, and keeps alive the canvas and paper through thrilling combinations of colour, texture and motif. Flowers, fruit and fabrics are set against complex, resonant surfaces to encapsulate feelings for places and cultures.
Fundamental to each of her compositions is the approach to the picture plane. The choice of a vertical or a horizontal emphasis, or by contrast a strong perspective, would seem to determine the presence and placing of so many of the other elements. If the focus is a door or a wall, then items may hang from it or perch on a shallow shelf. If the focus is a table top or floor, then objects sit snugly, sometimes weightily upon them. Alternatively, if a checked cloth is used to emphasise recession, it also provides a grid on which articles are laid. Figure and ground together establish a strong sense of substance, but any suggestion of trompe l’oeil is more a desire to delight the eye than to trick it.
Food is so frequent a subject for Val, that it is too tempting not to draw an analogy between her and a cook. Her paintings are like well-balanced, nourishing meals created from diverse, delicious ingredients. As she herself has noted about her oil on paper, Frutta, she plays ‘with shapes and reflections. Segments of the pineapple and the angled walls of the silver dish echo the diamonds in the mosaic’. Similarly, there are resonances between the components of Ribes Rosso: the decorated dish mediates between the redcurrants contained within it and the mosaic on which it stands.
The enjoyment that Val’s work affords will be obvious, but the broad range of her achievement perhaps less so. At one extreme, she relishes a riot of colour and texture, as in Melagrani, in which the seeds of pomegranates spill out and mingle with the tesserae of a shattered mosaic. At the other, she can conjure an intense, austere meditation on form, as in Eggs, in which white eggs sit in a reflective silver bowl set against a pure black background, like the moon in the night sky. Equally breathtaking, these, like so many of her paintings, present the details of the world as fresh and new.