To mark the retrospective exhibition of the celebrated British painter Ivon Hitchens, Pallant House Gallery invited artist-photographer Simon Roberts to revisit some of the places where Hitchens painted to create a series of work from the fields, woodlands and hinterlands of West Sussex.
Travelling by foot, Roberts immersed himself in the landscape of the South Downs, amongst the ‘scrubby hedgerows and thickets, open fields, lowland heath and chalk escarpments’. Hitchens’ colour palette and the abstraction of his surroundings become evident in Roberts’ studies: lime-green moss smothers gnarled and twisted tree trunks; muddy brown banks sit beneath rivers whilst reflected white sunlight skips across their surface; patches of bright blue sky are caught between the branches in the upper canopy of a pine forest.
In these photographs, Roberts moves beyond just looking at the fabric of the landscape and explores ideas of the ‘modest beauty’ of these secluded spaces. The title of the series ‘Inscapes’ was a term coined by the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to suggest that every living thing has a unique set of characteristics which distinguish it from the next – something akin to a God-given essence. Hopkins suggested it was the artist or poet’s responsibility to recognise this ‘inscape’ within nature and convey this to others through their art. ‘Instress’ was the related term he used to describe the action of inscape being transmitted into the beholder’s mind.
The photographs were exhibited in the Garden Gallery at Pallant House alongside a series of video and sound-based works that Roberts made for the exhibition. The photographs also appear in the accompanying exhibition catalogue alongside an essay written by Harriet Judd.
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