From Expansion to Restriction



I am pleased to report that my painting 'Connected' has been accepted for an exhibition that forms part of a wider Arts Council Project. For 2021 the project 'Northern Euterria' explores the impact the public health crisis has had on the creativity and working practices specifically related to and depicting the northern landscape. The exhibition will take place from Saturday 18th September to Sunday 14th November at Ryedale Folk Museum.


If you have been uprooted at a young age being ‘somewhere else’ or ‘another place' becomes a reality. It’s part of the deal for those of us born in Northern Ireland that many of us will journey somewhere ‘elsewhere’ to escape, get educated or to work. Since leaving I have taken opportunities to travel as far as Africa and America, expanding my horizons even further.

My childhood was spent in the wide open spaces of Northern Ireland and Donegal and influenced by an uncle who painted landscape watercolours I became interested in drawing and painting the landscape myself.

'Another Place', acrylic on canvas, 80x100cms

The open vistas, the sea, the backroads, the hedgerows and changeable weather I still own as part of my practice. They have become more of a contemplation of transience as I have travelled past and away from them although similar motifs are to be found in many other places. From ‘place’ to ‘non-place’ and from rooted to rootless I am always wondering what or where home is. Is it a specific place or is it something we find in ourselves?

All available on my website www.alexmcarthur-art.com

I think the restrictions of the last 18 months have seen a subtle shift in my practice. I have spent almost all of this time in my adopted home in Sheffield. I struggled to adapt but after a while my daily walks became more adventurous as I discovered the Sheffield Round Walk much of which led me through ancient woodlands many no more than a few hundred yards from where I live. By walking locally I have become more connected to my local area and forged new friendships along the way. Woodland in the autumn and winter is wonderful, from the display of rich colour as the leaves fade to the stillness of a cold, hard frost that reveals the sculptural presence of the trees. Immersed in this wonderland I slowly started to make some new work. These paintings have been a surprise as they were an unplanned and unexpected response. I became interested in the stable forms of the trees contrasted with the constantly changing atmosphere that they exist in representing the ongoing struggle between permanence and change. In my recent paintings trees and skies appear as fragments. Gone are the wide open vistas and meandering roadways that show me my past and promise a future and replacing them is a more restricted view of the world. Slowing down has focussed my attention on how the fluidity of the paint mimics the movements in the landscape I am depicting, from the slow drying to the swirls and turbulence of pouring and mixing, the fast movement of a changing sky to the years involved in the growth of one tree. The solid tree forms suggest a permanence that is never really there as the ground shifts slowly beneath our feet.


Sometimes restrictions can give the opportunity to explore in an unexpected way. I wonder what my practice will look like a year from now. I suspect I will return to some of my earlier motifs but everything leaves its influence and nothing goes back to how it was so I think there will be some lasting impact.


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More About the Project

www.ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk/northerneutierra

Artist Kane Cunningham is exploring how the public health crisis has impacted on the practice of artists. As part of the project Kane talks with photographer Tessa Bunney, sculptor Peter Coates, photographer Joe Cornish, sculptor and land artist Andy Goldsworthy, painter Peter Hicks and painter Francesca Simon.The resulting films and podcast will be released over the coming weeks and the hope is that these insights will help others to reflect on this challenging year.