Simon Gilpin is a talented and dedicated artist, new to the Yukon, who is haunted by memories of an idyllic landscape of his childhood, a special place full of sun and green. A place that he wants to trap in his memory and in paint on canvas where memory can take on a tangible form, live in space and time and be real.
This place is a farm in Ilkley, Yorkshire, England, where at a young age Gilpin lost his father in a car accident and was forced to relocate with his mother and siblings to the city of Leeds.
From what the paintings reveal, I gather that this place has special meaning and beauty for Gilpin. Beyond the trim cultivated fields and country lanes this artist depicts a tangle of untamed growth, wild flowers and heather of the moors.
It is this initial experience of wildness that Gilpin feels allows him to instinctively connect with the Yukon wilderness, also captured for this exhibition in paint.
As I walk up the stairs of Copper Moon Gallery in McCrae I experience the prickle of anticipation that often comes just before my first glimpse of an exhibition.
I always try to view a show with unbiased eyes, with little information about the artist and the context so as to let the work affect me directly.
What strikes me initially and significantly is the “light” of Gilpin’s work. Shimmering greens, glistening whites and bright turquoise blues reflect out at me from behind copious tree shapes. As well, he uses oil paint, lending its seductive quality of richness and depth to his works.
My favourite pieces are his very large works “Corner” and “The Edge of the Farm”, two works that capture the Yorkshire farm and surrounding areas of his youth.
Though there are no figures in these works a presence can be felt in the wires of a fence, the initials carved into an old tree, the dark ambiguous marker of an ancient Roman soldier, the intrusive curve of a roadside.
Gilpin explains that all his work is linked by the dynamic created between humans and nature, between natural and unnatural.
“Humans are a centrifugal force”, he explains, pushing “wildness” out to areas beyond their influence.
The paintings of London show his concern that humans become detached and encased in technology in an urban environment. This series of smaller paintings depicts figures who appear bored, engaged with technological devices and totally detached from their environment.
Gilpin’s style is to mix impressionistic and romantic landscape styles with a dash of influence by American abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock.
Electric splatters of paint overlay gorgeously painted landscapes, depicting the wild branches of tangled forest, and speckled splats of black, blue and white add energy lines to the paintings.
These fine erratic splatter lines evoke the energy of growth and life found in wilderness that is often impossible to convey with the self-consciousness of a brush stroke.
From Yorkshire to Yukon is a thoughtful exhibition full of light and dynamism. It’s on display at the Copper Moon Gallery until November 2.