Following on from Sydney-based artist HowardArthur Tweedie’s first exhibition at Thienny Lee Gallery, ‘Embodied Landscape II’ is a deeper exploration of the landscape — captured in oil and pastel on canvas.
As often seen with Tweedie’s work, figures appear throughout to give the viewer a sense of depth within the immense overwhelm and vastness of Australia. Yet, within this, Tweedie exposes the joyousness in the landscape, juxtaposing the harsh, savage environment. This rawness comes through in the colour palette, rich greens and blues contrast sandy hues and rusty reds.
The movement of the landscape is revealed through quick brushstrokes, as Tweedie paints across the canvas, leaving loose gestural marks. His techniques have been developed through his drawing practice, but the translation to paint encourages a lively action, akin to understanding the rhythms of the seas and clouds.
The artist is often thinking of the use of clouds and sky, and how these have always appeared through the canon of European art history — the Spanish impressionist providing inspiration, depicting our shared dazzling sunlight. Tweedie had immersed himself within this perspective, spending time in Madrid. Here the artist began to explore the technical use of glazing, known as one of the great Spanish skills. The masters reveal how to combine the traditional ‘classical’ skill-base with a lively contemporary outlook and deep subtlety — something Tweedie strives for in his oeuvre.
For his plein air oil paintings, the artist returns to the same spot several times, developing an intimacy with the landscape. As he waits for the oils to dry, he is exposed to the multiplicity — contrasts, composition and tones — the ever-changing landscape and the return of specific lighting and tides.
This active representation of the landscape can be seen in North Head from Middle Head 2, with oil on linen, Tweedie sets his model within the scene as the landscape appears to swirl. Clouds are in motion as the wind lifts the foliage in the air. Again, in North Sydney with Metro, the painting is full of active gestures, the water glistening and full of life, leaves drifting through the sky.
While the erratic weather and tumultuous landscape is foreboding within the paintings, Tweedie returns to us; the humans who inhabit this sunburnt and windswept country. After spending time outdoors, he comes back to the studio to add in his figures, the skin tone and vibrancy adding contrast to the rhythms of the sea, but also perspective to the vastness.
Sketching with Shadows, Manly and Georges Heights reveal the intimacy within the landscape and how his figures can offer a sense of calm and reflection to the canvas, while the atmospheric perspective shows depth, chroma and intensity.
As he avoids the high tides, perched upon the rocks, Tweedie has learnt to recognises when it’s time to stop. ‘Sometimes it’s best just to let the picture ‘sit’ for a while,’ the artist muses. ‘If you’re lucky, you’ll know just what to add. Don’t fiddle, rule #1.’
The soft, and subtle capturing of the vistas returns the emphasis to skill — a resistance of sorts to the overwhelming sense of technology that surrounds us in 2021. Tweedie invites us to return to nature and step out of the framing.
Thienny Lee Gallery
11 to 30 March 2021