Last week I came across the work of Andrew Barrowman, a Cornwall landscape painter. He had painted a sketch of Holy Trinity Church from the Avon at Stratford, where he was born. This view through the mist reminded me of when we were standing at the Colin P Witter Lock looking up the river at Christmas.
(c) Andrew Barrowman 2016 (framed by the artist)
It jumped out at me, this view of the Penrose Estate at Helston in Cornwall. Landscape sketches are easily some of the most beautiful and expressive paintings in the whole of art. Visual poetry. Like a Constable study, this little sketch – just 5 x 7 inches – is about the effect of weather on landscape, and how it appeared to the painter sitting at the edge of the field. A real snapshot of a moment in time.
Barrowman’s picture is beautifully composed. He has chosen a viewpoint where the field sweeps towards the curved path around the tree at the right. The ploughed earth, coming in like the tide to break and swirl by your feet, takes your eye round and into the painting. The storm clearing at the left, and lifting above the hills helps to define the view’s middle and distance.
His observation is faultless. The burst of light top left is hitting the furrows and the edge of the field in the foreground. The foreground colours are bright and clear, in that intense register you see after rain. In the mid-ground a purplish haze hangs in the air where the cloud hasn’t yet shifted. The freshly-ploughed field and new growth on the tree tell us that this is Spring.
But that’s just me trying to look under the painting’s bonnet to see how it works. The truth is simpler and more synaptic. I love the brushwork, really loaded and vigorous. In the detail it’s almost abstract, like nature by Ivon Hitchens. At a distance it resolves into a prospect in which every part rings true. A landscape you can feel. I’ve never been to Helston, but it reminds me powerfully of one of my favourite places in Warwickshire, and I can hear the last drops still dripping from the trees and the birds beginning to sing again as the rain stops. A place we’ve both been to-, I reminded Zak when I was putting the case for buying it. A magical painting, and we love it.