:— French dawn

Caroline Ednie investigates the work of a group of artists who formed an important bridge between the Romantics and the Impressionists, and asks whether the print form offers a fair representation of their work.

Barbizon. 30 miles south of Paris and somewhere between the Forest of Fontainebleau and the plains of Chailly became. in the latter half of last century, the home and muse for a group of painters. who are now known to lovers of ‘isms’, as the 'ism’ between Romanticism and lmpressionism, namely Realism.

The Barbizon artists. notably Daubigny and Millet, stressed direct study from nature and more importantly they emphasised and popularised working en plein air. Although the idea of truth to nature was not in itself a very revolutionary one. what was new was the uncompromising, unedited approach to their treatment of what they saw. Mundane peasant toil replaced Claudian perspectives, classically draped figures and Roman ruins and this liberation of the subject enabled their successors, most notably the

3 Impressionists, to drag art screaming 3 into the modern 20th century. ‘Shadow of the Forest’ is a display of i 80 prints from the British Museum‘s

; collection. The Barbizon School,

E however, was essentially a group of painters and not printmakers, and for this reason the exhibition is more of a

; curiosity than a revelation. The clear

subservience of printmaking to painting , can be seen in Millet’s etching of ‘The

i Gleaners‘ which, compared to his

3 painting ofthe same subject, is a poor

f bed-fellow indeed. Socio-political

g considerations aside, Millet’s strength

; lay in his ability to create evocations of I time. atmosphere and season and achieved this by some very deft

; handling of paint. His etchings by

1 contrast just don‘t seem to translate as a meaningful means of expression.

Mlllet’s les Claneuses - The Cleaners 5 Of all the artists represented in the l exhibition it is Corot who provides the I most refreshing breath of French air. ‘Les .lardins d’Horace‘ which i experiments with the part printing-part { photographic technique of cliche-verre, E is fresh and spontaneous and ‘Paysage ; D’ltalie' an etching which grew out of 3 his experiments with cliche—vene. i explore the medium as it should be and f results in a landscape study of sensitive tonal contrasts. Despite the inevitable explications at 5 the time from Baudelaire about etching i being ‘the best transcription of the % artist's personality' the Barbizon artists 3 remained above all painters. I think we 3 can be quite thankful for this. 3 Shadow of the Forest. National Gallery iofScotland 7 October until I 9


_ Natural light

‘These paintings are confrontational; they’re about how we come to terms with stillness,’ remarks painter James llugonin. Yet it is a quiet confrontation llugonin offers. Deriving from an interest in late Monet and Seurat paintings, each is an ambiguous field of pale colour. From a distance they appear monochrome, but as you move closer or pass by, other colours emerge, and it is the flash of yellow

beneath a grey haze which sometimes, :

quite suddenly, unexpectedly confronts you.

like Seurat’s works, they are built up 2

from combinations oi small, coloured dots which merge in the retina to form planes of transparent light. Coming closer, layers of different shades of light can be perceived until, finally coming right up to the picture, the eye can discern patterns of greens, blues and yellows which repeat and vary gradually across a faint line grid. The grid gives an underlying structure to each painting like a musical tempo, supporting the colour patterns with a steady pulse.

These patterns for. waves across the image, measured according to llngonin’s hand-span and sense of visual space. The danger of such an approach falling into a decorative wallpaperlng is avoided, however, through ilugonin’s exploration of the

fluctuating relationship between process and intuition. “I’m trying to create structures in which light can dwell, light can hover,’ he explains. ‘A space for calnr, a space for reflection.’ These works are breathing

"5.4: ‘lfI-h.”

spaces for the eye, each a concentrated stillness and soothing

departure frorn the confronting hustle of city life. (Shun Yuill)

. James lingonin: Paintings 1983-1993

at the Fruitlafkut Gallery Until 30 Oct.

:- East meets

(cg: K '9 -' “‘V Q While we are familiar with traditional Chinese art, little has been seen in the West of contemporary work produced there recently. This exhibition of woodcuts by its llun and Wei liulcong is the first such showing of their work outside the Far East.

The prints are made following a traditional Chinese technique of layering a series of opaque colours over one another. In lie Kun’s ‘Songs ofAuhunn-TheWhitened Land’, a final layer of white ink allowing glimpses of rich yellow, red and green through it describes a thick snow- covered landscape.

Both artists concentrate on rural images and scenes of village life. They draw on a combination of Chinese and European styles which compare strongly with post- lmpressionlst and early Expressionist prints such as those of Gauguin and Hanserell. A series of landscapes by Wei Cuicong called “Walking with a Friend’ suggests a narrative of individualised moments from a country walk. Each focuses on a specific item or aspect as in images of a tree or ‘Evening Wind’.

In January next year the Printrnakers Workshop will host a larger exhibition of work front a variety of Chinese art academies - again the first of its kind to come to Europe. This current show servesasaforetasbeofwhatwernlght expect. (Simon Yuill)

Two Chinese Printmakers is at the Edinburgh Prinhnakers Workshop and runs until 23 Oct.

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The List 8—2l October I993 55