Meet the Artist: Vanessa Gardiner

Vanessa Gardiner was born in Oxford in 1960.  She studied painting at Central School of Art & Design in London.  She has exhibited widely since 1991 and her work is in many private and public collections around the world.  She lives and works in west Dorset.

"As a landscape painter I am captivated both by the beauty of the places on which my work is based and by the processes involved during the making of the pictures.”

We met up with Vanessa to learn more about her process and passion for the British landscape.

Wave Line (County Mayo) - Fine Art Giclée print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Your work explores particular parts of the British coastline. How do you start your process? 

I find that the process of drawing is essential in getting to know a place well and to establish a deeper identification with the landscape; it is only then that I can in some sense feel justified in abstracting and reordering the landscapes into the carefully selected compositions I use later in my paintings, knowing they will be true to the place. 

I have always been drawn towards the natural geometry of coastal regions, particularly the   dramatic stretch of unspoilt coast around North Cornwall and I’ll start by making a number of drawings directly from the subject.   Some of these may be close, observational drawings made over a period of time or quicker notes purely to glean some specific information which I will use back in the studio.   Texture, movement and colour are all noted, but above all form - the architecture which will provide the structure for the painting. 

Vanessa in her studio, courtesy of the artist

Tell us about a day in your studio. Do you have a creative routine?  

I paint every day and I’m usually in my studio by 8.30am - I find mornings work best, when my mind’s clear and I’m at my most creative.  By the afternoon I’ll often go out walking with our dog, returning to the studio later in the day to continue painting and re-evaluate the work I did that morning. 

I tend to work across a number of pieces at any given time and might work on a series of four or five paintings rotating them in the studio as I go.  I find that ideas form one picture will feed into others and then back again.  Naturally it can take some months to achieve resolution, with each painting acquiring, in some sense, a kind of ‘family history’ but also standing up as a statement on its own. 

You create the majority of your paintings on plywood or hardboard. Why do you choose to work on this surface? 

I work on plywood and hardboard as they are rigid and robust and give me the freedom to change the composition of a painting easily if necessary by cutting them down and the picture is then not restricted to a prescribed format.  During the painting process, I often redraw the image, scouring and sanding back the paint until the surface becomes significantly changed and enlivened.  The board responds well to my technique and takes on a beautiful patina, leaving traces and histories of paint in its grain and revealing qualities of its own.    By repeatedly sanding and scouring the plywood and responding intuitively to the after-images which are left at each stage, I hope that something beyond the subject matter and the material will emerge, some ‘otherness’ as it were. 

Harbour Coast - Fine Art Giclée print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Do you have exciting projects/exhibitions coming up? 

I was delighted to sell both paintings on show in this year’s RA Summer Exhibition and I am currently showing at Sladers Yard Gallery in West Bay in Dorset, in an exhibition called Igniting Sight: Contemporary artists inspired by JMW Turner which runs until 8th    September 2019.   I am pleased to have two paintings selected for the Westmoreland Landscape Prize at the Rheged Art Centre, which will be on show from 14 September to 10 November 2019 and I continue to work towards solo shows I have scheduled over the next two years both locally and at the Thackeray Gallery which represents my work in London. 

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