Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Meeting With Amanda Hoskin.

Amanda Hoskin works in a large, light wooden building at the bottom of a garden in Par. Inside it is warm and bright, white walls and cupboards and paintings in various stages of completion.
The first thing to catch my eye was a collection of tiny canvasses with, what appeared to be, butterflies stuck to them.  These exquisite little works of art are made using Amanda's characteristic painterly style, collage and wonderful colour sense, a little gold leaf, and butterflies that she has painted onto fine ivorine, cut out and then collaged into the work.

They are so beautifully painted that I had to look very closely to make sure that they were actually made and not pinned. 
I am to include this disclaimer: "No butterflies have been harmed in the creating of this exhibition" 
I wanted to know why she has chosen gardens as the subject for this next exhibition:  Not wanting to be type cast as "that artist who paints the Cornish coast", she decided to explore gardens.  There is a wealth of wonderful gardens in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  She admits to being initially worried that this would result in a lot of green paintings but as soon as she began to explore the subject she became hooked.
Naturally butterflies have flown into the picture.  They are beautiful but rather more importantly, she reminds me, is the vital role that these jewel like creatures play, along with bees, in our survival on this planet. Which is why the entire proceeds from the sale of one exhibition painting are to be donated to the British Butterfly Conservation Society. 

With the same energy and passion that was evident in her coastal walk and the resulting paintings, Amanda has quite literally gone down the garden path.  She has spent hours in gardens, public gardens, tiny back gardens, allotments and orchards absorbing the scents, sounds and textures, making small paintings, working her sketchbooks and gathering information.
She returns to the studio and paints in oils, on paper, wood or canvas. Whatever suits the painting, she is, I think, an instinctive painter.  Using pallet knives, her fingers and brushes, but brushes as tools to "stab the canvas" rather than to paint with, she weaves the colours. A huge collection of very well used, sturdy paint filled brushes sit on the window sill next to a big pallet and a lot of paint.
As we talk she begins to work the sky on the easel painting.  Mixing paint with a pallet knife and applying it to the painting she then begins to use her fingers, coaxing the soft greys into the right kind of light, she almost looks as if she is conducting the weather, there does seem to be a tiny bit of magic going on.
Amanda's paintings are many layered, skies are first filled with delicate layers of subtle tones, worked and smoothed with quick fine fingers. Then paint is applied with the brush-tools, flicked, smeared and splattered, layer upon layer until a dense undergrowth of colour and texture is created.  Paper, words and precious gold leaf are often employed, all working together to recreate the gardens and landscapes that now seem to contain dreams and memories as well as trees and flowers.
Her sketchbooks are works of art in their own right, valuable note books, filled with drawings and beautiful little paintings, colour studies and experiments, seed packets, textures from a magazine, sweet wrappers and labels, words and thoughts, finger painting, watercolours and oils mixed and mingled into a delightful inspirational cake. 
These are what inform her paintings.  It is these paintings which must be seen to be appreciated, I can honestly say that if you like Amanda's paintings in the catalogue or on the web site you are going to love them when you see them in real life.  They are richly textured, deeply layered, beautifully considered and an honest, heartfelt response to a place and a time.
Amanda's paintings are feminine, soft and beautiful.  They are a testament to the natural world, Cornwall and the isles of Scilly.  They look lovely but there is also an undercurrent, like a hidden message, someone telling you in a half remembered dream: "Don't mess with this beautiful world, treasure it, layer it with gold and precious colours and lay it out, without a word, for everyone to see."   That is just what she has done.