Since the Impressionists left their studios to draw and paint outside, many artists have been preoccupied with the attempt to depict what’s in front of us – what we deem as ‘familiar’ – in a fresh way. To show us someone leaning over a bridge, or families playing on the beach, or a pedestrian looking at their iPhone – as if for the first time. This is an increasingly challenging task.
Judging by the millions of snapshots being taken daily on millions of mobile phones, our thirst for pictures seems insatiable. We look at these snaps for a few seconds, then pass on to the next one, and the next, and the next …
Given this context, it’s all too possible to stroll round the exhibition of Juliet Wood’s drawings and paintings as though we were flicking through a series of photos on Instagram.
Can I encourage you not to do that? Spend some time with these pictures and what is not immediately apparent begins to emerge.
The thing, of course, is that these are not snapshots. They are the work of an intelligent observer and a seasoned practitioner. Notice the skill in handling the tricky medium of oil pastel.
Look for an unexpected vibrancy of colour and for carefully crafted composition. Juliet rarely uses photography to record her observations. These pictures are made from drawings made ‘on the spot’ – usually in pencil.
Several of her sketchbooks are on display in the exhibition. The coloured works are generated in the studio, often combining several figures from different drawings, made at different times.
Juliet enjoys and values this deeply traditional method by which she tries to convey how we live today. She is interested in how individual people interact whilst maintaining their individuality.
Look again at that choir in All Souls Give Joy, or the interplay between figures on Sennen beach. The contrast between figures playing freely on the beach and the musicians playing in their disciplined manner is cleverly conveyed.
There is much joy to be seen in this exhibition. It’s a celebration of what can be too easily taken for granted.
This exhibition of work by Marlborough resident Juliet Wood is open at the White Horse Bookshop during shop hours until 3 November 2017 – admission is free.