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Author: Bridget Macdonald

In Search of the Perfect Hill

This exhibition was reprised at Elmslie House in Malvern for a week at the end of October/early November as part of the annual Autumn in Malvern Festival. The first showing was in the summer of 2022 in Ludlow and was organised by Richard Gilbert, who had the original idea of a group show of artists making work about a hill which was special to them. This year the artists were Helen Arthur, Adrienne Craddock, Richard Gilbert, Andy Johnson, Kathryn Moore and me. Here Helen, Adrienne and Richard are hanging my drawing The Beautiful View, which takes in the range of the Malverns towards the Worcester Beacon from the top of Chances Pitch near the British Camp.

We had lots of visitors and it was a worthwhile project which possibly may be repeated in future years. If so I might turn my attention to North Hill which has featured in earlier paintings.

6 December 2023

At Worcester Cathedral

The exhibition Rain, Wind and Change is now open in the South Cloister of Worcester Cathedral and runs until 21 May.

We were not allowed to touch the ancient walls of the Cloister so hanging the large drawings was a challenge – Angus Macdonald devised an ingenious solution using builders fencing panels. It was an untried idea but fortunately it worked very well.

The Private View on 3 May was preceded by Choral Evensong in the Cathedral. Canon Kimberly said a few words of welcome, The Very Reverend Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester, was present and Catherine Swire read her poem Chantry Song. We drank local perry, cider, apple juice and Malvern water which all came from the surrounding countryside. It was simple, stylish and how I wanted it.

On Saturday, 20 May Catherine Swire and I will have an informal discussion about poetry and painting at a free event. If you would like to come along meet in the Chapter House at 11 am.

Here is Cathy reading her poem with young Max Martin stealing the show.

10 May, 2023

RAIN, WIND AND CHANGE at Worcester Cathedral, May 2023

This will be the venue for my next exhibition: the South Cloister at Worcester Cathedral. The exhibition opens on 3rd May and runs until 21st May.

The project has its roots in SOIL, a volume of poems by Catherine Swire which was published in October 2021 by The Artel Press, Liverpool. The poems and associated essays consider the layers of trauma, history and human intervention in the landscape of the Herefordshire/Worcestershire borders.

I have mainly concentrated on two of the poems – Chantry Song and The Maker. Chantry Song refers to the exquisite tomb in the Cathedral of Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII. He died at the age of 15 at Ludlow Castle a few months after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry VII was devastated as Arthur was intended to become the embodiment of the Tudor dynasty. He had the elaborate tomb carved in London and sent up to Worcester Cathedral. Eventually the crown passed to the ‘spare’, Henry VIII.

The other poem The Maker refers to Richard Twygge who with Thomas Wodeshawe had a workshop in the grounds of Great Malvern Priory. They were responsible for much of the exceptionally beautiful medieval stained glass in both Great Malvern Priory and Little Malvern Priory which is a few miles to the West. Both were originally Benedictine monasteries which were dismantled by Henry VIII.

Download the exhibition catalogue

The South Cloister at Worcester Cathedral is the perfect setting for this body of work. There will be three large charcoal landscape drawings and 3 figure drawings plus portrait studies for the figures and three small paintings of the Black Worcester Pear.

I shall post more information nearer the time.

16 March, 2023

CLAY FIRE PAPER PAINT at Quay Arts, Newport Harbour, Isle of Wight : June/July 2022




Rather out of sync chronologically, here are some images of the third joint exhibition with my sister, the potter Molly Attrill, in the Clayden Gallery at Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight, which ran from June 18 to July 9. We have very diverse practices but somehow our work hangs well together.

Molly is pictured with her friend and fellow potter Gregory Tingay, who is now Artistic Director of Studio Pottery London and was once a Benedictine monk at Quarr Abbey on the Island.

12 September 2022

The Beautiful View

This charcoal drawing is 32 x 48 ins. It was included in Six Artists in search of the Perfect Hill at Ludlow (July to September 2022). It is a view of the Malvern Hills looking North from a point at the top of Chances Pitch, which is a long hill leading up to the British Camp from Ledbury. Long before I came to live in Malvern I would pass by in the car and always seized the chance to look across at this breathtakingly beautiful panorama of the hills receding into the distance, an idyllic view of an English pastoral landscape.

10 September 2022

Six Artists in search of the Perfect Hill

This exhibition opened in mid July at Ludlow Assembly Rooms and ran until September 3. I was invited to join by Richard Gilbert, who had the original idea that six of us should choose our ‘perfect hill’. Mine was rather inevitably the Worcester Beacon which rises to the highest point of the Malvern Hills above where we live in Great Malvern. Unfortunately illness intervened during the run and I was not able to publicise the show as much as I had anticipated. At one point I was hospitalised for a few days and it was very pleasing that I could see ‘the sunlit uplands’ of the Worcester Beacon from my hospital bed.
I contributed a large charcoal drawing ‘The Beautiful View’ (in next post) and some small Sepia ink drawings plus 3 paintings. Sometimes the Beacon was centre stage and at others viewed from a distance.

10 September 2022

CLAY FIRE PAPER PAINT at Quay Arts, Newport, Isle of Wight

I am preparing to hang this exhibition next week in the Clayden Gallery at Quay Arts. This is the third collaboration with my sister, the potter Molly Attrill. Our first was in 2017 with FROM ROCKEN END TO BINNEL when we focussed on the small stretch of coastline on the southernmost tip of the Isle of Wight where we grew up. We followed this in 2019 with POTTER AND PAINTER, which had less of a prescribed theme but still retained a feeling of similar preoccupations explored through our different practices. CLAY FIRE PAPER PAINT is also a free association of our individual subject matter. I have gathered together drawings and paintings from different times and places with a connecting thread of relationships between landscape, memory and the natural world.
I will post images once we have completed the hang. The opening party is on Saturday, 18 June from 2 – 4 pm in the Clayden Gallery at Quay Arts and the exhibition runs until July 9.

9 June 2022

Spring Exhibition at Campden Gallery

Herefordshire Lane in May (2020)
oil on linen
20 x 20 ins.51 x 51 cms

The Spring Exhibition at Campden Gallery, Chipping Campden, Glos, opens on Saturday 2 April and runs until Sunday 24 April. A number of my paintings and several small ink drawings are on show, along with works by four other artists. More information can be found at www.campdengallery.co.uk

1 April 2022

Launch of SOIL at Ledbury

On Saturday, October 23, Catherine Swire’s debut volume of poems, SOIL, was launched at the Barrett Browning Institute, home of the Ledbury Poetry Festival. The poems are about the landscape around the Malvern Hills, its history of trauma and human intervention over many centuries. I have been inspired to start a body of work using the poems as a source. I do not see myself as illustrating the poems but using them as a bridge to connect things seen with things remembered or imagined. I have worked in this way at intervals over the years – indeed my exhibiting career began when a series of charcoal drawings based on the beekeeping poems of Sylvia Plath were included in a significant exhibition at Ikon gallery in Birmingham in 1991. One of my drawings, Eastnor Obelisk, was exhibited at the BBI on Saturday and will remain there until November 2 along with sketchbooks and associated source material.
I am also interested in the figures in Catherine’s landscape and have been working on a drawing of Prince Arthur, who is buried in an exquisite tomb in Worcester Cathedral. I will post an image shortly. I would like to do something on Edward V, one of the princes who disappeared into the Tower and who appears in a medieval stained glass window in Little Malvern Priory. The glassmakers Richard Twygge and Thomas Woodshawe had a workshop in the vicinity of Great Malvern Priory and were clearly highly skilled. Their Magnificat window in Great Malvern Priory was a gift from Henry VII and includes an image of Prince Arthur.

Catherine Swire and John Elcock of The Artel Press at the launch of SOIL

26 October 2021

Late summer update

I have been updating my website, a task long overdue.

I am still working on a visual response to the poems of Catherine Swire which are due to be published by The Artel Press, Liverpool, in October with the title ‘SOIL’. This drawing of a young man (Catherine’s 17 year old son, Sam) is the beginning of a work based on the life of Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII and elder brother of Henry VIII. He died at Ludlow when he was only 16 and buried with much ceremony at Worcester Cathedral where his exquisitely carved tomb is near the High Altar.

We were hoping to show these works next summer at the Ledbury Poetry Festival but have not found a suitable showing space yet. More to come on this subject – I am visiting the site of the 1651 Battle of Worcester in a few days on its anniversary on September 3rd. Both Prince Arthur’s tomb and this site are included in Catherine’s poems.

Portrait of a Young Man (2021)
charcoal on paper
30 x 22 ins. 76 x 56 cms

31 August, 2021

New Year: new landscape drawings

 

These new drawings have been made since the start of 2021 during the 3rd Covid Lockdown.  They are 32 x 48 ins, charcoal on primed Arches paper.  Priming the heavy paper with random brushstrokes produces a surface which the charcoal slides over and gives a more painterly effect which I am quite liking at the moment.

The drawings have been inspired by a series of poems by Catherine Swire in which she explores the layers of history in this ancient and romantic landscape of the Malvern Hills. They are not intended as illustrations to the poems but as my own response to her evocation of what she calls “trauma’s relics”. She writes that she is “drawn to the idea that land, the ground itself, has a kind of voice that demands an immanent kind of listening”.  The Iron Age fort known as the British Camp from where these two views were taken is reputed to be the site of Caractacus’s last stand against the invading Romans.  The Obelisk at Eastnor is visible in the top drawing, a memorial to a son lost in France in 1759.  Indeed the loss of young men is one of her themes, from the medieval stained glass in Little Malvern Priory which can be seen in the foreground of the second drawing (the only contemporary portrait of the young Edward V) to the tomb of Prince Arthur in Worcester Cathedral. These are winter landscapes and the flooded Severn coming down from Worcester is seen in the distance in this drawing.

I want to continue with more drawings when the restrictions of lockdown are lifted and I can get out and about more. The site of the Battle of Worcester for example at the confluence of the Teme and Severn, the chained library at Hereford Cathedral, the World War 2 Listening Station at Guarlford all feature in the poems.

I find myself in tune with the premise of the poems, that we see landscape through a prism of memory, folklore, history and that it is a palimpsest of centuries of human intervention and activity.

 

21 February 2021

November Lockdown 2020

It has been a peaceful month with plenty of time in the studio – which is the one good thing about lockdown.   I have mainly been painting apples, which I do every year when we harvest the apples in Coombe Beauchamp Orchard.  We also had a huge crop of quinces. These pics are snaps not professional photographs, I am waiting for easing of restrictions before I can arrange a session.

 

 

 

These are all 5 x 7 ins, oil on linen, unframed

I have also found three winter landscapes in mixed media on card:

 

 

These are all 4 x 5 1/2 ins mixed media on card, mounted but unframed.

The top one is a view of the Malvern Hills from Coombe Beauchamp Orchard, the other two are views from the Malvern to Paddington Great Western train.  Unknown country but somewhere in Oxfordshire.   I did them last winter but have only just had them mounted.  I haven’t been on a train since March!

5 December 2020