Magic Circle of Life
It was worth risking
the yellow peril of East Lothians acres of rapeseed
to see the work of two painters - in age, generations apart;
in style, continents apart. Christopher wood graduated from
Edinburgh College of Art in 1984 - but I dont
think of myself as having trained there, he says. I
trained here, looking out beyond Traprain Law, sketching in
the fields, until I had absorbed enough of the landscape to
work now only in the studio, entirely from my imagination.
Woods solo show of more than 40 abstractions of the
world on his doorstep - at the Macaulay Gallery at Stenton,
near Dunbar - is his sixth there in a row. In between he has
been hung at the RSA (Royal Scottish Academy) and won two
important prizes at annual shows of the Royal Glasgow Institute.
Wood's canvasses have moved up in scale and, as a consequence,
his images have become more structured and forceful. He still
conjures dreamy atmospheric passages of resonating colour,
almost liquid in their coalescent intensity, and he has the
gift of making these expressionist essays complete in themselves.
But the larger works are rooted in more solid statements which
invite specific interpretation - linear forms which introduce
harsher textures, planes of scumbled broken colour, Sea and
Sky, sun and moon, are indivisible, but is that dense mass
a rock formation or harbour mouth, Traprain Law or the Bass
Rock itself? Do those darts of high colour serve only as pictorial
accent, or could they be prayer flags recalled from a recent
trip to the Himalayas?
These are challenging works, some more coherent than others,
but all bold and painterly. His titles are poetically unspecific.
'The moon lends away its light', 'At the drop of dusk', and
'At the round earth's imagined corners I do dwell'. It is
fair to quote back at him that his world is a circle of
which the centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.
There is a hint of Eardley in his palette and his graceful
division of space, and a suggestion too, of the aerial vision
of William Burns, but in this exhibition Wood has begun to
lay claim to the landscape he has lived in and learned to
read during all the years of his adult life - as Gillies did
in the same airt, and as Eardley did at Townhead and Catterline.
At The Round Earth's Imagined Corners I Do Dwell
© W Gordon Smith
The Scotland on Sunday, Spectrum Magazine, 28th May 1995