ref: aPm Nov 12-Dec 11 2016 CHAPPEL GALLERIES Katherine Hamilton - Open a 'pdf' of this press release - return to Galleries PR Index




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The Drama of Shape

Andrew Lambirth

Katherine Hamilton is a dedicated traveller, pursuing her wanderlust as far as New Mexico and Guatemala, but also traversing the British Isles in her search

for places which move her. Yet however far she roams, it is always with renewed enthusiasm that she returns to her Suffolk studio, invigorated with the spirit

of new places. She reminds me of GK Chesterton who famously maintained that the whole point of travel was to be able to come back home refreshed, to

see the familiar with new eyes.

When she finds a subject she wants to paint, she makes pencil drawings of it with copious colour notes, seizing that particular moment of discovery in a

sketchbook. She needs to impress the look of a landscape onto her mind, so that it may be recalled later in the studio with exactitude and with the emotions

she felt when first regarding it. Inevitably, it is the parade of shapes she falls in love with the roads, walls and trees that articulate a stretch of countryside.

The genesis of these paintings tends to be protracted: on average, a painting will take two years to reach resolution, and in the process may well change

dimensions before it finds its final form. Hamilton paints on ready-primed unstretched canvas, deliberately cutting out a piece that is larger than the image

she has in mind. She then draws out the composition in charcoal, and puts a wash of burnt sienna over the top. She builds the image slowly with much

scraping back of paint with palette knife. As she excavates the image, it may become apparent that it needs to be larger or smaller than originally intended,

but working on unmeasured pieces of canvas allows for this kind of development. The unstretched half-painted canvases lie about on the floor of the studio,

acclimatising themselves. It is as if they have to become part of the fabric of the place before they can be of any value or meaning, and an aspect of this rite

of passage is being walked upon by the artist as she moves around her working environment. Hamilton is refreshingly un-precious about her work.

She thins her oil paint with turps and aims for a lean look. Hers are not surfaces heavy with impasto, rather they appear scrubbed and chalky, possessing

something of the fragility of pastel. The paintings are only stretched later, when the image is achieved.

The smaller works tend to be stuck down on board, or marouflaged, the larger canvases put on stretchers. Most of these paintings are worked on a substantial

scale, but when Hamilton paints smaller she is no less effective. Look, for instance, at Valley, North Yorkshire. It is simply composed of trees, houses,

roadway, light and weather, yet it radiates mystery.

Whether it’s the cut-out profile of the mountains in the Lofoten Islands, or the blocky, Cubist-faceted houses round the harbour at Staithes in North Yorkshire,

Hamilton orchestrates flat patches of colour like battledress camouflage, playing out a complex exchange of surface pattern and depth. Occasionally her

streamers of colour have a jagged awkwardness that is startlingly effective, as when she paints the Blythe estuary under a sunrise as hot as a volcano, or a

cotton tree aflame in Autumn Desert. For my money, Hamilton is best at landscape, though the three interiors she painted of the deserted diamond mine

towns of Namibia, all stairs and lines and shadows, offer as weird an ambience as you might find in the haunting images of Edward Hopper. Again, it is the

drama of shape which attracted her to the subject.

The most impressive painting in this body of new work is Autumn Marsh. The crispness of design in Hamilton’s best pictures, and sometimes the pale but

lambent colour, unexpectedly recall the intensely English vision of Eric Ravilious. In Autumn Marsh, Hamilton has achieved a pellucid panorama of the North

Suffolk landscape as seen from the bell tower of St Michael’s Church in Beccles. Two Yorkshire winter paintings employ tracks in the snow to help delineate

the terrain: Winter Dale (note the poignant gravestones) and Winter Landscape, with its circumscribing river and building blocks of farm sheds. Another

Yorkshire subject focuses on a waterfall as it spills over a great bowl of rock and vegetation, eloquently foregrounded by the bare branches of a tree.

Katherine Hamilton is well aware of the central importance of being open to what her painting might want to say, and that this will only be discovered slowly,

through the process of making. Her chief aim is to simplify and distil her imagery, and she achieves this through a dialogue between description and

abstraction. These luminous new paintings are some of the finest she has made.

Andrew Lambirth, author and art critic, whose latest book is Brian Rice Paintings 1952-2016

Dick Pope writes of Katherine’s work:

As a cinematographer, exactly what excites and attracts

me to Katherine Hamilton’s paintings could be perceived

as fairly obvious… they are most cinematic. Bathed in

beautiful and apt light whether it be twilight, night, dawn,

sunrise, sunset or that ‘magic hour’ following the setting of

the sun, her perfect compositions captured effortlessly

within the frame are always quietly observed from a very

natural point of view.

But the other reason I so admire her work is because the

films I shoot are about storytelling and Katherine is

certainly a very fine storyteller. Each and every one of her

paintings confirms this. They all tell a story, lightly

atmospheric in tone here, mysteriously and darkly

brooding there, fleetingly observed or meticulously studied

but always reeling me in with their underlying narrative,

their calming affirmation and global celebration of people

and places across the planet.

Captured through a lens, this marriage of narrative, light

and composition is what I strive to achieve when I

photograph a film for cinema. But this is not at all the way

Katherine paints because there is no camera involved.

Pretty extraordinary really, for much of her work appears

at first glance to evoke the briefest photographic moment,

seemingly frozen by the opening of a rapid electronic embodies the feminine spirit of a thoroughly modern

shutter. The reality though is very different because when

approaching a subject, first she simply observes, while

patiently waiting for ‘it’ to happen, totally immersing herself

in her subject and allowing the experience to completely

absorb. She sketches and makes detailed notes. Then

later, often much later and back in her Suffolk studio, she

begins her arduous process of bringing her paintings to life

as oil on canvas. Here embarking on a further painstaking

journey of rediscovery, but now distanced from the reality

of the original experience, her memory and senses re-

kindled, she re-imagines, and dreams again.

And indeed her work does emerge dreamlike, a greatly

heightened and tilted reality, often virtually surrealistic,

hyper in colour, light and deep shadow, playful and

ominous. Now distilled to the essence, landscape or

interior stripped back of all unnecessary embellishment,

they do become dreamscapes, putting me the viewer right

there. They can be lonely, almost post-apocalyptic, as if no

ne’s left alive or I’m the very first or very last to see this, to

be here. I am alone. Observing the work feels very

personal, like an early explorer’s ‘first contact. She is that


For Katherine has a restless ‘traveller’ spirit and will

suddenly take off to very far away, remote and

inaccessible lands. One of the extraordinary things about

these adventures is that she always travels rough and

always travels alone. It’s a personal journey. She’s a loner,

driven and very courageous. For her, she simply cannot

share the experience and has to suffer alone to achieve

that which she’s seeking. This struggle both out in the field

and back in the studio is all one to her, a totally and

intrinsically necessary part of her life journey. Viewing the

paintings I can certainly often sense the hardship she must

have endured to achieve her vision. She really puts herself

through it. She has to, and that applies to all her work

whether it’s Southwold, South America or the Southern


This struggle, the constant reaching out for new horizons,

the journeying and sketching, the re-imagining, the slow

working up of many paintings at the same time, all remind

me of another painter. Because for me Katherine

J.M.W. Turner. Forever drawn back to the English coast,

he to Margate, Kent, she to Southwold, Suffolk, both so

obsessed by sea, sky, land… and light. Surely also for

Katherine… ‘The Sun Is God’.

Dick Pope, Cinematographer, 2016. Nominated twice for

Academy Awards Oscars: The Illusionist, 2007 and Mr Turner,