Reviews

An Introduction to Ann Gardner by Andrew Lambirth

Ann Gardner was born in Bedford and trained at the Slade in London. She paints landscape, portraits and still-life, but I believe her special talent is for landscape. Her early career was studded with prizes and she took part in such prestigious group shows as The Whitechapel Open, The National Portrait Award and The Discerning Eye. Her work has always been sought-after, and is now in numerous private collections. One of her earliest dreams was to live and work in France, and she began doing this as early as 1987 when she won a David Bayley Scholarship and used it to travel to south-west France to paint en plein air.

In 2001 she finally shifted the centre of her painting practice (and her family) to Roquecor, in the Tarn-et-Garonne department, a move which has paid off remarkably well. She is clearly inspired by the French countryside, and employs the analytical and structural eye of Cezanne to underpin her lyrical vision. Forays into Italy have also proved revelatory: Gardner is a dab hand at hill-towns and valleys, setting off the architecture with the trees, successfully articulating grand panoramas and intimate vistas. The results are impressive: her dedication and seriousness have been amply rewarded.
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I have been following Gardner’s career since the early 1990s, and have witnessed her steady pursuit of mastery, and the hard-won increments of knowledge and experience. Her art is a celebration of looking, and her tenacity in the interpretation of appearances, of light falling across a landscape, has resulted in paintings of considerable assurance and no little beauty. In a sense she is trying to capture the impossible – fleeting effects of weather – so she gathers a series of impressions of a landscape which changes every minute, and makes an equivalent of it in paint.
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She is particularly good at capturing a particular time of day, such as Twilight, or a major seasonal change of the kind to be found in her magnificent rendering of Blossom. Although her use of paint is precise and controlled, it is never austere and there is a sensuousness to it which is both intriguing and compelling. In fact her paint handling is decidedly fluid and atmospheric, aiming at conveying a very particular emotional response to a stretch of countryside. She has made reflections in water one of her themes, a subject which enables her to deploy a range of blues to make the heart sing. Trees in the Flood is a fine example of this among her new works.
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Gardner’s research into the spirit of place is accompanied by a formal inventiveness that lifts these paintings out of the run of the ordinary. Her vivid massing of elements and boldness of painterly attack allow her to navigate a memorable path between the topographic and the interpretative, between the observed and the imagined. She has also been experimenting more with colour: dense but translucent fields of pigment such as to be found in Blossom and Cave. Here all is nuance and modulation, and the artist holds the viewer’s attention through subtlety and suggestion. She does not forsake appearances, but brings a pointedly abstract construction to her observations. She orchestrates her forms with a new plangency and with increasing authority. Somehow she confronts constraint with freedom in her paintings, and wrestles them into a new unity.

Small gestural studies are painted on the spot (examples here include Reflections and Chapelle, Belveze), as are other slightly larger studies, such as the vivacious Trees in Spring, La Chartre Sur Le Loir and the wonderfully atmospheric Mist, while the more considered larger paintings employ many hours of studio time, but rarely look at all laboured. In her latest work, Ann Gardner is painting at the top of her form.
An Introduction to Ann Gardner by Andrew Lambirth

Ann Gardner was born in Bedford and trained at the Slade in London. She paints landscape, portraits and still-life, but I believe her special talent is for landscape. Her early career was studded with prizes and she took part in such prestigious group shows as The Whitechapel Open, The National Portrait Award and The Discerning Eye. Her work has always been sought-after, and is now in numerous private collections. One of her earliest dreams was to live and work in France, and she began doing this as early as 1987 when she won a David Bayley Scholarship and used it to travel to south-west France to paint en plein air. In 2001 she finally shifted the centre of her painting practice (and her family) to Roquecor, in the Tarn-et-Garonne department, a move which has paid off remarkably well. She is clearly inspired by the French countryside, and employs the analytical and structural eye of Cezanne to underpin her lyrical vision. Forays into Italy have also proved revelatory: Gardner is a dab hand at hill-towns and valleys, setting off the architecture with the trees, successfully articulating grand panoramas and intimate vistas. The results are impressive: her dedication and seriousness have been amply rewarded.

I have been following Gardner’s career since the early 1990s, and have witnessed her steady pursuit of mastery, and the hard-won increments of knowledge and experience. Her art is a celebration of looking, and her tenacity in the interpretation of appearances, of light falling across a landscape, has resulted in paintings of considerable assurance and no little beauty. In a sense she is trying to capture the impossible – fleeting effects of weather – so she gathers a series of impressions of a landscape which changes every minute, and makes an equivalent of it in paint. She is particularly good at capturing a particular time of day, such as Twilight, or a major seasonal change of the kind to be found in her magnificent rendering of Blossom. Although her use of paint is precise and controlled, it is never austere and there is a sensuousness to it which is both intriguing and compelling. In fact her paint handling is decidedly fluid and atmospheric, aiming at conveying a very particular emotional response to a stretch of countryside. She has made reflections in water one of her themes, a subject which enables her to deploy a range of blues to make the heart sing. Trees in the Flood is a fine example of this among her new works.

Gardner’s research into the spirit of place is accompanied by a formal inventiveness that lifts these paintings out of the run of the ordinary. Her vivid massing of elements and boldness of painterly attack allow her to navigate a memorable path between the topographic and the interpretative, between the observed and the imagined. She has also been experimenting more with colour: dense but translucent fields of pigment such as to be found in Blossom and Cave. Here all is nuance and modulation, and the artist holds the viewer’s attention through subtlety and suggestion. She does not forsake appearances, but brings a pointedly abstract construction to her observations. She orchestrates her forms with a new plangency and with increasing authority. Somehow she confronts constraint with freedom in her paintings, and wrestles them into a new unity. Small gestural studies are painted on the spot (examples here include Reflections and Chapelle, Belveze), as are other slightly larger studies, such as the vivacious Trees in Spring, La Chartre Sur Le Loir and the wonderfully atmospheric Mist, while the more considered larger paintings employ many hours of studio time, but rarely look at all laboured. In her latest work, Ann Gardner is painting at the top of her form.
Le Terroir: Paintings by Ann Gardner

From her beginnings as a fast-track eighteen year old admitted to the Slade, Ann Gardner has come at her subjects with a highly distinctive energy and sense of purpose: her touch is characteristically bold, brisk and buoyant. Ann is known for her portraits and has twice been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, London. However this body of work is a study of the landscape where the artists lives, near Tours in France.
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“Le Terroir” is an exhibition of works concentrating on the landscape. Summoning up diverse senses of place, Gardner reflects on the possibilities inherent in the art of painting. Painting can make flatness and depth, permanence and evanescence swap places. This transposition becomes clear in canvases such as Jetty in Sicily or Two Blues, where the far view across a lake is turned into a balancing act between cobalt on one side of the palette, and ultramarine on the other.
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Views across water engage Gardner yet again when she returns to her home base in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, just north of Tours. Tracking the knots of housing seen from her window, she observes the townscape strangely, almost unaccountably upended in the Loir. The most substantial of these views, Le Loir No. 1, a six-months' studio labour, runs top to base from a dense impacted wood to a shimmery floating sky reflected in Le Loir. And thus, in this art with its French antecedents, the solidity of Cézanne's vision and the atmospherics of Monet's meet up in a novel conjunction.
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Most strikingly, the sense of place that is the consistent interest driving all these images is expressed through bold gestural metaphors, rather than through descriptive drawing. Two recent canvases The Forest of Bercé and Rain in Brittany mark the point where a painter who started out with enormous precocious promise reemerges as an outstanding visual poet.

Julian Bell, 2008
Le Terroir: Paintings by Ann Gardner

From her beginnings as a fast-track eighteen year old admitted to the Slade, Ann Gardner has come at her subjects with a highly distinctive energy and sense of purpose: her touch is characteristically bold, brisk and buoyant. Ann is known for her portraits and has twice been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, London. However this body of work is a study of the landscape where the artists lives, near Tours in France.

“Le Terroir” is an exhibition of works concentrating on the landscape. Summoning up diverse senses of place, Gardner reflects on the possibilities inherent in the art of painting. Painting can make flatness and depth, permanence and evanescence swap places. This transposition becomes clear in canvases such as Jetty in Sicily or Two Blues, where the far view across a lake is turned into a balancing act between cobalt on one side of the palette, and ultramarine on the other.

Views across water engage Gardner yet again when she returns to her home base in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, just north of Tours. Tracking the knots of housing seen from her window, she observes the townscape strangely, almost unaccountably upended in the Loir. The most substantial of these views, Le Loir No. 1, a six-months' studio labour, runs top to base from a dense impacted wood to a shimmery floating sky reflected in Le Loir. And thus, in this art with its French antecedents, the solidity of Cézanne's vision and the atmospherics of Monet's meet up in a novel conjunction.

Most strikingly, the sense of place that is the consistent interest driving all these images is expressed through bold gestural metaphors, rather than through descriptive drawing. Two recent canvases The Forest of Bercé and Rain in Brittany mark the point where a painter who started out with enormous precocious promise reemerges as an outstanding visual poet.

Julian Bell, 2008
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