Vanessa Gardiner

High Cliffs 9 (Orkney) 2024. acrylic on board. 87 x 129cm.

Clean lines, dynamic surfaces and thrilling coastal subject matter are the defining features of Vanessa Gardiner’s work. Wonderful new paintings of Boscastle, Tintagel and Godrevy, subjects she has loved all her life and has painted often and brilliantly, are joined in this exhibition by exciting new places. Looking at these pictures, no-one could doubt that Vanessa Gardiner has been bowled over by Orkney.

A new energy drives these recent paintings. Here is the thrill of connection and recognition followed, as she commits herself totally, with a level of trepidation. During her first visit in 2022 she wrote, ‘Quite extraordinary to find a landscape that so mirrors my way of working. Cliff formations of strata, fissures and scored ledges. Rhythmic sequences of folding rocks and headlands. I was struck by the monumental slab-like pavements of rock which plunge vertiginously into the surrounding sea. A natural architecture.’

The giddying scenery of this wild, edge-of-the-world landscape gave rise to a rush of ideas and sketches which Vanessa worked out in beautiful little works on card. Back at home the preoccupation deepened and the larger paintings that began to appear revel in the shockingly sheer cliffs and dramatic angles, the juxtaposition of curves with straight lines, the new colours – lichen yellow, rich red-brown sandstone, a deep and different turquoise blue. While Vanessa always honours her subject matter with precise veracity, these are paintings with more than one perspective, looking down, across and out to sea all at once.

Vanessa Gardiner’s practice echoes the process of erosion. Her surfaces are scoured and abraded, layered and scrubbed back using the media and the texture of the surface to describe her subject. Implacable rock faces convey emotional depth and charge. Areas of opaque colour abut contrasting worked sections creating tension. Lines are scored, straight or curving to delineate and divide the thresholds and contours, columns and ledges.

Vanessa describes going back to Orkney a second time in August 23 to make sure her first impressions were sound. ‘There is a joy in realising you are walking into the very same place and seeing again a now familiar composition/view. I realised with a jolt that I was walking the path of my carefully drawn pencil line, like stepping into a dream, a place that has become the focus of my imagination.’

Vanessa Gardiner is a well-established painter who has been working as a professional artist for many years. She was born in 1960 in Oxford where her father was a tutor of philosophy at Magdalen College. She did her Foundation year at Oxford Polytechnic going on to study Fine Art at the Central School of Art and Design in London. After six major solo shows at the Hart Gallery in London, she moved to the Thackeray Gallery in 2015. Her solo shows at Sladers Yard have been in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2022 with two two-man shows in 2019. We are delighted to represent Vanessa Gardiner. In between exhibitions her work can be seen here by appointment or bought from the website. She also works brilliantly to commission.

Vanessa Gardiner’s work is in private collections around the world and in public collections including Exeter Hospital, Bournemouth University Collection, Dorset Museum, Carlow Collection Ireland, the Archive of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation Co. Mayo, Cowley Manor, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Fidelity International, New Hall Cambridge, Magdalen College Oxford, Wolfson College Oxford,the British Academy London and the British School in Athens. She lives in Charmouth, Dorset, with the painter Alex Lowery. They have a daughter, Jessie.

Distinct landscapes around the Cornish coast have been long-standing sources of inspiration for my own work.  Such places as Pentargon, Beeny, Trevalga and Godrevy; and at Boscastle, where the natural crook of the harbour is almost enclosed by the architectural forms of the dark slate cliffs and inlets of deep turquoise sea. All are beautiful, dramatically contorted coastlines, each shaped and weathered in common by the Atlantic Ocean.


Vanessa Gardiner Coastlines

Paperback Perfect bound. 19.5 x 21.5 cm. 32 page full colour. Foreword by Anna Powell. Published by Sladers Yard. Available for £10 + £2.50 p&p.

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