Thursday, 30 October 2014

Tranquil views of the London landscape

Barge and Leaves
Exhibitions: you wait for months and then several come along, one after the other.

It certainly felt a little like that last week: just two days after attending the launch of the excellent A London Eye: here Artists Look at the Leyden Gallery in E1, another invite popped up for another opening that, in a happy coincidence, followed on really rather well from that.

Regent’s Canal: Reflections on Urban Water is a very small exhibition of paintings by Valerie Irving that is now on at the Broadway Bookshop on Broadway Market in Hackney.

Don’t expect a lot of paintings – this is a small space that is, as you might gather, first and foremost a bookshop.

But the canvases that are displayed here all bring something different to the wider idea of how we see our surroundings in urban environments in general and specifically, in London.

This is a case where the exhibition title does the job of telling the audience exactly what they’re going to see.

Irving’s works are focused on the canal that runs just a few metres away, with hints of the industrial landscape of the area reflected in the grey-blue water, and occasional suggestions of a barge or building in the corner of a work.

Reflected Buildings
It’s a landscape that is part of the legacy of the Industrial Revolution, but these paintings create a near-abstract world that softens the hard industrial architecture into kinder colours and contours.

And all this is seen through the artificially-created ‘nature’ of the canal, giving it a pleasing circularity.

Blues and greys dominate the works, although the reds in Barge and Leaves help to create great depth.

This canvas – together with Large Reflection Grey – conveys a great sense of light.

The composition is superb and the ripples on the water beautifully captured.

But it is that light that makes these two the stand-outs of the collection.

Ultimately, this small selection conveys an unexpected sense of calm and serenity: they soothe, and act as a fascinating counterpoint to those on display at the Leyden.

Regent’s Canal: Reflections on Urban Water will run until December 24, so if you’re in the area, it’s well worth popping in.

Small the exhibition may be, but you get to visit a rather lovely wonderful bookshop too.

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