Earlier his year I was fortunate to be the Artist in Residence at the www.sommerakademiet.com in Kalvåg Bremanger, Norway for the month of April where I produced a series of 50 prints and 12 paintings.
I always considering myself to be an ‘Abstract Artist’ in the main (if one has to categorise) the surrounding landscape has more than once been a strong influence on my work and on occasions may even be recognisable as such though I prefer the more ambiguous, atmospheric and non realistic imagery to predominate. The half hidden feel of place or rather an emergence from the void (or paper/canvas!) of a created world influenced by observation or thought processes from the environment around me. Though for me, thinking of my work for their predominantly ‘abstract’ qualities does not mean that recognisable imagery may not sometimes creep in. Needless to say having moved to the Western Isles the landscape and culture of island living had a massive influence on my work. The wild and extreme of land and sea, of weather and the fast changes – the coming together of things, the separation, the blending and hiding, the ambiguity and mystery.
I moved to the Western Isles in 2005 buying a waterside house overlooking the harbour in Scalpay where I worked from home until late 2014 when I moved into my Studio and Gallery in Scalpay School Craft Village when along with others we finally obtained the lease on the old school buildings. I have exhibited at An Lanntair annually at the ‘Grinneas nan Eilean’ and also in England.
The same approach to work as stated above can be said of my stay in Norway where the similarities of the landscape in Bremanger were very strong in many ways and yet very different in others. By the coast in Kalvåg and Bremanger the geology was so familiar one could have thought one was on Harris. Going inland of course things get a little more dramatic. The fjords bigger deeper and longer and the mountains so much bigger. All stunningly beautiful and mind blowing.
The work I produced in the month there was a reaction to the immediate locality of Kalvåg itself for its harbour, wonderful old fish houses and modern fish factories all very smart clean and colourful. Plus the splendid Hotel Knutholmen, with fish restaurant and bar where most of the clientele arrive by boat, yaght, or speed launch, mooring right outside on the numerous pontoons. It was very apparent that there was more affluence than on Scalpay! Especially with prices at the bar. Getting involved with the lovey locals guys (and wives) in there was great but when a small bar round can cost you into the £100+ somewhat dangerous! The chat was good though – many of the men having been at sometime in Stornoway as seamen and all spoke well of it and the people here. Quite a few of them had older relations who had been much involved with ‘Shetland Bus’ service. This was the coastal area from around Bremangar and up to Alesund etc that was the main departure and return for the sailings in WW2 of the very brave seamen who undertook the route from here to Shetland and back with resistance fighters, support supplies and spies!
I had travelled to Norway by car in order to enable me to have more materials etc to work with and also could explore wider around the area too. This was not without drawbacks. I had to drive to Newcastle, get the 18 hour overnight ferry to Amsterdam, drive up through Holland, Germany and Denmark to get another 18 hour overnight ferry from Hirtshals to Bergen then drive a wonderful 100 miles or so to Kalvåg. A long journey in time and miles and money but great fun apart from the breakdown in Holland and garage call out. Not fun and costly to repair after ‘limping’ to my destination where repairs were carried out.
My approach to the work process there was to spend the first few days exploring the village and surrounding area taking a great many photographs then to dive into a quick reaction style of working – less planning just action in working on a few different works at the same time wether painting on paper or producing digital works on my MacPowerBookPro with Wacom Pad and a large screen also taken over and using ArtAge 4. A tremendous piece of software that enables you to draw, paint in watercolour, oils, and use airbrush, palette knife etc etc with total control of colour pressure etc. You have to do the work ‘it ain’t cheating’!
The digital works are sort of in two categories –
1. the influence of village architecture, boats and water etc then
2. 2. the outer landscapes in including the most impressive Hornelen – a mountain in Bremanger The mountain 850m high sits on the eastern end of the island of Bremangerlandet, along the Frøysjøen strait, in the Nordfjord region of Norway and has Eauropes highest seacliffe. Its dissappearance in and out of the clouds and traces of lingering snow was stunning all seen across the fjord
Many but not all of the digital artworks originated by importing a photo’ then manipulating it to a point where it would be almost destroyed then bringing out chosen elements, changing and re-painting discarding and creating etc.
On completing the month in residence I spent a further 10 days travelled up the coast to Trondheim via Alesund, Molde, and Kristiansund. A splendid drive with tunnels and ferries galore and good camping en-route then galleries in Trondheim and the Cathedral! I then returned to Bergen via high ground, snow, tunnels and ferries via Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark, Flam and Hardanger. All wonderful.
On returning to my studio some mild amends were made before sending them off to be printed as Limited Edition of 20 Giclee Prints each. Twenty selected examples of the 50 are here framed and exhibited in An Lanntair as a prelude to a larger collection of prints and paintings including further works to be created in my studio on Scalpay and exhibited in An Lanntair in April 2017.
For more info on Geoff’s work visit his website here.
His exhibition will be on display in An Lanntair throughout September.