South Downs delights revealed in new exhibition of landscapes

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Making Tracks offers an exhibition of new paintings of the South Downs by Matt Bodimeade at Arundel’s Zimmer Stewart Gallery (July 6-27, open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm).

James Stewart, gallery director, said: “This exhibition will surprise those who have followed Matt Bodimeade’s work over the last few years: the change to oil on canvas from pastel on paper retains the strong sense of place and form, but adds emphasis to the colours and texture in the works.

“In most of Matt’s work there’s central motif: a wall, a track, a river or a railway. It is no coincidence that this division is often scythe or sickle shaped and seems to slice the landscape apart; the fields and woods suggest work, movement and energy, shaped like plough blades, discs, or saw teeth on either side of the central divide.

“So as you stroll through Matt’s lanscapes, stopping beside the flint wall, or looking down a track to the river, enjoying the arrangement of colour and form, light and shade, rhythm and texture, and deep, vertiginous perspectives, there’s always going to be something niggling at you from the side.

“And that niggle is probably just a horsefly or phytophototoxic blister from the giant hogweed but there’s definitely something a bit edgy about Matt’s pastoral landscapes.

“The paintings are carefully drawn, often from charcoal sketches made out in the field. The new departure into oil painting reveals an enjoyment of colour for its own sake rather than a photographic representation. Pinks, oranges, acid yellows; whatever suits the mood he’s trying to capture.

“The absence of figures in the paintings reflects modern farming practices, and for good or bad there’s no right to roam round here. But the presence of human history is deeply felt. It’s evident everywhere from the network of hedgerows, the coppiced woods and the tracks and pathways worn down to the bare chalk. This is ancient, cultivated land; everything is cropped, channelled and contained; knapped, carved and cut.”

James added: “What makes these paintings so impressive is the unsentimental way Matt views the landscape, his bold use of line and colour, and his sculptor’s feeling for form.

“This is combined with a deep respect for those unseen figures in the fields, on the rail tracks and riverbanks whose bone-juddering, brain-deadening labour created and cultivated the landscape that he paints.”