‘ICELAND LANDSCAPES’
A solo exhibition by Sarah Watson
4.10.23 – 28.10.23

In early Autumn 2022, I visited Iceland with my young son, with no intention of drawing. However, the landscape on the south coast was the most alien, dramatic, and just plain beautiful I had ever experienced, and I would dedicate the next twelve months towards trying to capture what I felt in that moment. In particular, I have been striving to paint the icebergs that we saw close up on a boat on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the neighbouring black sands and glittering giant chunks of ice on Diamond Beach. Of course, this meant working from photographs when I returned home to my studio.

I have lived and breathed these icebergs and their otherworldly home since then, exploring ways to replicate their individual, almost mammalian forms, streaked with the history of their gradual formation with shiny black and translucent pinks, blues, even greens. I have endeavoured to capture their expressive, stark volcanic black marks with soluble graphite, their graceful gentleness in pastel, their magnificent bulk in oils.

My passion is to paint the natural landscape, the wilder and more dramatic the better. In an ideal world I would be doing this en plein air. I sit directly on the ground, legs out, lean forward and become a part of the landscape itself, using oil bars and moving the paint around with my bare hands, expressively mark-making and scratching through with my nails In doing this. The logical observational part of my brain is barely skimmed as the information is drawn in through my eyes, travels through my gut and my heart and leaves via my shoulder, down my arm, to my hand, my wrist and eventually my fingers. Of course this was never going to happen in Iceland – it was just too cold! So I have had to adjust my way of working and bring my intense feelings for this landscape back with me and into the studio, drawing exclusively from my own photos.

I have revelled in the limitless time that studio painting has afforded me, to acutely study the multilayers of texture in the ice, the way colour can reflect the freezing cold, the ripples and reflections in the lagoon water. I have still worked primarily with my hands, even with the oil on canvas paintings – I might start with a large brush but before I know it, I am scooping paint straight off the palette and applying it with my bare hands, sweeping it across the ice plains of the glacier, trailing finger marks in the water, scratching through with my finger nails. Occasionally I will use other sharp objects for more specific textural detail – the edge of a broken credit card or lethal looking pottery tools.

The icebergs’ breaking away from the glacier of course also brings us the awful truth that these stunning ice beasts (as I like to think of them) are the result of global warming, brought about by our actions. Even in travelling to this incredible place, I will have contributed to its destruction. And so my work also strives to acknowledge this fact, bringing our attention to not only the sheer beauty of it all, but also its fragility and our part in its downfall. By avoiding picture postcard prettiness, I aim to represent their real story.

Sarah Watson, 2023

CATALOGUE 

Iceberg Pair
Oil on Board
57x58cm

The Road to Jökulsárlón
Oil on Board
68 x 61cm

Diamond Beach
Oil on Board
84 x 58cm SOLD

 

Haukadalur Geysers In The Rain
Soft Pastels
80 x 64cm

Storm Blowing Across The Jökulsárlón Lagoon
Oil on Board
84 x 58cm SOLD

All The Colours Of The Iceberg
Soft Pastels
80 x 64cm

Iceberg (Blue and Black)
Graphite and Oil Pastel
76x58cm

Iceberg (Pink and Black)
Graphite and Oil Pastel
74x59cm

First Glimpse Of The Glacier
Oil on Canvas
36 x 46 x 5cm

From Glacier to Lagoon
Graphite and Oil Pastel
67 x 83cm  SOLD

 

On The Jökulsárlón Lagoon
Oil on Canvas Board
58 x 62cm

The  Jökulsárlón Glacier
106 x 76 x 5cm

Skogafoss 
Oil on Board
51 x 69cm SOLD

Voyage Between the Icebergs
Oil on Canvas
106 x 76 x 5cm

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