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STORNOWAY GAZETTE
Friday 5 August 2011 14:09

A NEW body of work launched by well-known Hebridean artist Seonaid Clarke highlights the versatility and natural beauty of Harris Tweed.

Using the Tweed as the canvas for her Hebridean inspired landscapes, Seonaid – originally from Lewis, but now living on the east coast – will début her new collection at this month's inaugural Aberdeen Art Fair.

Following the successful project of producing textile art on material for use in bridal wear, Seonaid began experimenting with the Tweed. And as texture has always been an important aspect to her work, using the traditional cloth appeared a natural step for the Western Isles artist.

Working on such an absorbent material has presented some interesting challenges,” she admits. “But it's been immensely satisfying and exciting seeing each piece of work evolve.”

Despite the challenges however, Seonaid has worked her creative magic and turned the idea of ‘mixed media' on its head.

Her work is very atmospheric, capturing the dramatic light of the vast open skies and the majesty of the grasses and heathers that clothe her native islands.

She says: “It's like painting on pure inspiration. The fabric that comes from the landscape is the perfect media for my work. I can capture the movement of the grass and the roughness of the heather on Tweed, which is simply not possible on other media.

“It adds another dimension to my artwork in every sense and it's so exciting to be painting on a Hebridean product. It's like being home again.”

And the result on display at the Country Frames Gallery stand at the Aberdeen Art Fair, Aberdeen Music Hall, August 13 and 14, is a really unique creation that is pure Eilean Siar – Western Isles!

ART REVIEW in the Hebridean Newspaper 06 Oct 2006 "Story Behind the Picture" by Eilidh Whiteford

"ALTHOUGH not trained traditionally through means of an art degree, Seonaid Clarke is an artist, as with many living and working in the Western Isles, who is self taught and producing works of an extremely high and exceedingly professional quality.

"I've been drawing and painting since I was old enough to hold a pencil, though I must say that much of my art has developed simply through experimenting, along with a great deal of trial and error," Seonaid chuckled.

"When I was younger my mother did encourage me to go for art college, but at that time the only real option after training was to go into art teaching and I really didn't fancy that, so I guess I rebelled a bit and never went.

"I'm pleased with the way my work has developed, by experimenting and finding things out the hard way. I think that if I had been told I could only do things a certain way, or that what I was doing wasn't right, I would have given up, but this way I enjoy myself and have fun with the 'happy' accidents that happen!"

Yet, what Seonaid perhaps calls an accident, others call pure talent, and indeed in viewing the works of this local artist, her natural abilities, skills and flourish of creativity are readily on display for all to see.

In the column this week we shall be looking at two examples of Seonaid's work - 'January Dawn, Stornoway Harbour ' and 'Copper Horizon' - both greatly differing in style and technique, yet both equally intriguing and truly beautiful pieces of art.

One interesting and immensely pleasing aspect of Seonaid's art, which will be seen through the following discussion, is the huge variety of both styles and genres in which the artist creates - from traditional landscapes and portraits, of which many works are commissioned, to both semi and fully abstracted pieces.

"I work depending on my moods," the artist revealed. "The paintings can be really wild or very precise and I like being able to chop and change styles.

"Years ago I was not that interested in abstract and I think that probably had a lot to do with my island upbringing and the traditional art which I saw then, but now I love dabbling in colour and texture and experimenting with the paint through abstract works."

She continued: "I enjoy that a painting may start with a loose idea, but that you find it evolving into something totally the opposite just by adding a colour or shape.

"I enjoy the way it evolves and changes. Many people say that painting is a journey, and it really is - it's like walking up a hill and never quite knowing what you will find when you reach the top!"

Turning first to look at the semi-abstracted work 'Copper Horizon', it is clear just how much Seonaid embraces the creativity present when working from feelings and emotions, as she explained: "This work came about from seeing some marsh lands over on the West Side. The light on the islands is amazing and always changing. Here it was just going crazy, which I loved, and looking over the marsh lands with the reeds and rushes produced such a great effect."

Wonderfully translated through mixed media the image and very essence of the marsh lands are illustrated well within this vibrant and absorbing work.

In using metallic paints the artist has removed the scene completely from its natural colourings, yet at the same time it remains deeply rooted in the wilderness through the heavily textured dark grasses that are seen rising halfway up the canvas, and also reflected in the watery marsh landscape below.

Although abstracted, the landscape represented in the work is cleverly devised by splitting the canvas horizontally, as done by the reeds and rushes, allowing the viewer's eye to retreat into the scene and revel in its beauty.

This is echoed further up the canvas when it is divided once more by a dynamic slash of intense copper, delivering a burst of energy into the already apparently chaotic, yet carefully measured, composition.

Indeed the copper horizon defines this piece and once again brings texture to the fore as the smooth application of copper paint is contrasted above in the merging shades and colours of the rough dappled sky - hues of which are once again reflected in the watery marsh lands below, tying background to foreground and allowing the work to turn full circle, producing a tight and extremely rewarding viewing of this superbly abstracted scene.

For Seonaid, abstraction is an area of her art which has perhaps seen more experimentation than the more traditional genres of landscape and portraiture, and even the artist admits it can get very 'hands on': "I really enjoy just messing around and getting right in there - I often end up using my fingers!

"I find I need to feel the paint and work with it as closely as I can, and doing abstracted works like this gives me the total freedom to express myself by experimenting and letting my hair down," she revealed.

Yet, turning to study out second example of Seoniad's work - 'January Dawn, Stornoway Harbour ' - and a very different side to the artist comes shining brilliantly through.

"I still like doing the more traditional pictures, and in this one I was trying desperately to capture a moment and a view which I'd experienced when walking in the Castle Grounds one morning," Seonaid expressed.

"It was such a glorious morning, the light perfect as the sun began to come up, everything so frosty, hushed and still, and even when I had finished this work I felt that I hadn't done that moment justice as it was just spectacular."

She continued: "I like that this is a view of Stornoway Harbour , but not the usual view of the Castle or the town, and perhaps could even be a view of elsewhere.

"The wonderful location I live in, the island, is a continuous inspiration and I love to pull pieces of that scenery out and highlight them, to show people what's out there around them and you're never short of going 'wow' at the views up here!" she laughed.

Whereas 'Copper Horizon' gave viewers an abstracted elegance of the island's surrounds, 'January Dawn' presents the beholder with a magnificent _expression of the chosen scene, created with almost photographic precision and detailing.

The well though out composition is ingenious in capturing and drawing the viewer into an almost secret serenity as the artist displays the experience of a snapshot moment of sheer beauty and grace.

When viewed as a whole the contrast of tones between the luminescent background, which orb from the midnight blues of the ebbing night through a kaleidoscope of muted purples, pinks, oranges and yellows, before returning to the aquatic azures of the sea, and the almost black silhouetted foreground creates a magnificent play of light within the piece.

The interest and subtle drama produced by this dark sweep of foreground - from the reaching branches of a tree that dominate the top half of the canvas, to the caressing slope of the rocks below - the eye is sent on a revolving course in which every corner of the painting is absorbed and appreciated, before settling upon the central images of the two shadowed sailing boats.

Indeed, there are so many small, yet wonderfully expressive and intriguing details within the work - the superbly executed ripples of advancing waves in the immediate foreground; the intricate patterns of twigs, branches and foliage which grows up the right hand side of the canvas; the still reflections of the sailing boats, and the almost invisible horizon - that each new glance and fresh look finds the viewer's attention once more brilliantly arrested.

"My philosophy is that I love doing what I do, and if someone likes this as much as I do, then that I feel is an added bonus," concluded Seonaid. And with such varied style and exquisite creations, there is no doubt something for everyone within the art works of Seonaid Clarke.

To view more works by the artist, log onto www.minigalleryworld.com/seonaid_clarke, and anyone interested in finding out more about Seonaid's work or wishing to commission a piece can contact her at seonaid2@btinternet.com."


11 August 2006
Machair Dunes II

My auntie commissioned another Machair Dunes for my 40th birthday; it
arrived today via her van driver and looks fantastic- the depth of
colour in particular makes it a very prominent piece.
Our house is 200yards from the sea and it captures the essence of the
play of light perfectly ( and manages to pick up our woodwork almost
perfectly).Thank you for a lovely painting.
kind regards
Ann West

11 May 2006
Lynda Harwood
"thanks the print arrived safely last week and is now up in my bedroom. I love it - as does my boyfriend (which I am surprised by given that it's floral!!!) Thank you.