Vanessa Jackson often sounds more like a sculptor than a painter when talking about her own work. She refers to ‘whittling away’, ‘carving out’, and ‘polishing into existence’, when describing how the dynamic shapes evolve. She enjoys doing woodblock prints for the reason that in these, the compositions really can be carved out.
Her paintings are most striking for the colour, which is intense, energetic and vibrant. Just as shapes are repeated so, there is a repertoire of colours, particularly a wide range of greys which are regularly used. Vanessa Jackson is preoccupied by the relationship between shape and colour; shapes and their arrangement are arrived at first but then she finds that they are dictate their own colour as she works on them. She considers that the painting is a process of constant refinement and reduction. In the recent years compositions have become much simpler, through an enjoyment of basic forms remains. She finds herself continually drawn back to the simplicity of squares and triangles. In the large oil paintings the dominant shapes appear almost physical, almost 3-dimensional. Of equal importance in the compositions however, are the thinly painted ground colours – regarded as areas of drawing due to the lively brush marks.
The precise, immaculate way in which the works are painted is quite remarkable. Compositions are never laboriously measured, masking tape is not used to ensure clean edges; instead all the shapes are drawn by hand and then painted in a wonderful, controlled flow of colour.
Hamish McLennan studied sculpture at Manchester Polytechnic and then worked as an assistant to Anthony Caro for six months. Since 1985 he has worked in a studio at the Stockwell Depot, London. His sculptures have an air of lightness and joyfulness; they are decorative and elegant – rare qualities in steel sculpture.
Set against white walls they have the appearance almost of ‘drawings’ in metal; the forms are clear and precise, the edges crisp. Just like marks drawn on a sheet of paper, the lines and shapes cut into, or projecting from, the steel, not only have their own meaning, but activate the space around them. The surfaces of the pieces enriched with subtle glazes of colour.
Some of his most recent sculptures had their conception in drawings done 2 or 3 years ago; this time delay being inevitable because making a sculpture is such a lengthy process in comparison to drawing. Inspiration for these works has come form Hindu sculpture, and drawings form the South Sea Islands, which Hamish McLennan admires for their vigour and natural inventiveness.
We have chosen to show these two artists together for a number of reasons, some obvious, some more subtle, which are nonetheless worth outlining. Their work shares an interest in the role of drawing: it is a source of energy and tension, used in order to explore shapes and the enliven areas of colour. They both strive to achieve compositions, which have a carefully worked out harmony of shapes and forms. There is something rather exciting about putting the illusion of space and depth created in Vanessa Jackson’s paintings, next to the real physical space defined by Hamish McLennan’s sculptures. Similarly the very bright paintings work well along side the more sombre colours of the steel sculptures. Above all these two artists reveal an ambition and intelligence in their work, which is worthy of recognition.