Many of my clients have been kind enough to take the trouble to review my paintings. I am honoured that my work should engender such thoughtful and considered reaction.
The Golden Island
This is a very special painting – rich, precious, glowing, magical and highly original.
It is also dreamlike and inspires dreams. A visitor to one of Richards' exhibitions dreamed of a foreign place on a hot, balmy night,
where a lake dotted with floating flickering candlelight was bordered by lush vegetation. A path led to a clearing where a picture lay on the earth,
made of pure pigments. It was unmistakably The Golden Island in full, glorious colour.
The island of the title bears a resemblance to a hill near Stourhead, which if viewed from Mere Down,
close to the artist's home, rises up behind the line of the horizon. Its shape, however, is in reverse,
the highest part of the hill being in reality on the left. Has this familiar landmark undergone a transformation?
It is now an exotic gilded island with a deep, dark sea and a strong, stormy turquoise-green sky. Below the sea,
the land is sliced away to reveal a sheer rock face with a wonderful light-reflecting texture, in mid-to-light blues streaked with red.
A gently undulating ledge, like a cliff-road, snakes across the surface, trees nestling against it. Below this,
there is another area resembling rock with strong textural marks, this, a larger expanse of red.
In Richards' work, reds and gold are often used sparingly as contrasts in the petrol blue, turquoise and aqua,
but here we see larger areas and chunks of these colours – a real treat. The block of gold – a bright emperor's gold – sings out
against the red and ultramarine, its textural scratches and lines suggesting the effects of time.
Finally, at the bottom, we have deep ultramarine blue, not solid, as in the sea at the top, but streaked and patterned with purples and maroon.
To the right, its shape suggests a wave; however, in the corner we see a golden orb, resembling a planet in the night sky – sea and sky have become one.
Every October Sky
Seen as if from the cockpit of a Spitfire, the fields are scraped, plotted and pieced. It is twilight.
The predominant colour is a luminous blue, with touches of purple and green and two yellow fields.
There are folds and there is texture. The horizon is high in the picture, giving only a glimpse of blue sky and a few fleecy clouds.
Trees, still heavy with last year's leaves, sway in the wind. The earth shifts on its axis. It is all here. This is England.
There are rocks beneath my feet, smooth Celtic rocks. This is where I am now, standing, gazing, and looking outwards.
There is a tuft of sea pink and marram grass finding a probing foothold at the sea's margin. The salt smell teases and the water's rhythm is
the rise and fall of my own breath. I feel no separation.
In this painting I feel the ache which is universal longing. My feet are rooted in the here and now, a safety zone, amongst
those things which are known, but yonder is the Dark Isle. It is the shape of the not known. The moon does not lighten its contours.
It lies dark against the sky. Are there beaches, harbours, safe landing places, or are there cliffs of hardship and denial?
Is the land barren or fertile? What wisdom inheres the undisclosed terrain?
Discovery requires a journey across a stranded sea, and who can deny its pull. Its jewelled tranquillity holds the promise of safe passage.
Surely there would be no danger for my simple boat slipping across those silken deeps. The moon will light the way across and I could land just there,
towards the left of the dark land where maybe I would find a bay.
Nothing is certain.
Through Holt and Hanger
The rich Curves of the landscape take the eye as we look down at dusk at the hollows scooped out by the glaciers of old.
This is an ancient landscape, rich in history and mythology, beautifully painted.
White clouds seem to mirror the journey of a solitary balloonist as he makes his otherwise lonely way across the dawn landscape.
The sky beneath the balloon is bright, and this brightness is mirrored in the green field below where a simple line of dark trees divides
it from the more sombre landscape in the foreground. But Tracks lead towards the horizon and the sky, giving an impression of inescapable optimism to this moody work.
This is an extraordinary painting – I have never seen anything like it. At first the clouds seem like large, fluffy, white birds.
Then: strange shapes changing rapidly, or metamorphosing into all manner of different things, just as one can see strange things
in the clouds as they move, whilst looking up at them in summer, perhaps while sitting in the garden, in the sun.
They would be as fascinating as noticing faces or creatures in the shadows, or the shapes and folds of curtains, for example,
in the semi-dark, especially during childhood.
Or are they puffs of smoke, conjured up by rubbing a bottle or jar, as in the fairy tales, and will a genii appear at any moment?
It is impossible to look at the picture without thinking of the clouds moving. In much art, the clouds are static. Pleasant, well-painted,
beautiful even, but still static. Richards' clouds move as in Cloud-Led Shadows Sailing or The Edge of Rohan.
The landscape below is very similar to that of Ashe Ridge - Finale and The Rainy Season – lush and verdant. There are velvety hills
of emerald and forest green in the foreground. A flat plain stretched out; watery, dotted with trees. Then a ridge, perhaps an embankment
leading up to a canal or railway line with trees in full leaf. Beyond this: more lush jade fields, and in the distance, blue hills.
An orange sun setting – streaks of faded gold ochre, golden brown and baby pink. The sky: aqua, light teal and turquoise layers.
Above the dancing clouds, a pale moon in the evening and odd little wisps of cloud – sun and moon in the same painting, as day moves towards night.
This is a summer evening picture, a moment captured whilst we look up and watch in amazement a fantastic ethereal ballet.
Visionary moments, expanses of sea,
Memories of long-lost moments haunting me.
Glimpses through enveloping mist,
Feelings like waves, persist.
Endless horizon, challenging to beyond,
Star-studded vistas reflecting moods that bond.
Changing light, changing life,
There is no wrong or right,
Swirling images, depths of reasoning,
Lapping future bright.
A remembered landscape; A place I went to once, long ago, Or perhaps I only think I did. A trick of memory, some waking dream;
The pain and comfort of long cherished imaginings.
Beyond a tree lined rise scored by lengthening shadows, A lake of gently sculptured blue awaits. I long to tread its sun kissed shores,
To feel, in the faint heat pulsing from the stones, The final embers of the day.
On the far side, Dark megaliths rise from the earth; Brooding escarpments of purple and black; Ancient and impregnable,
They frame a view of a distant mountain.
A spit of land reaches into the lake; I imagine walking along its course of age worn trees, Stunted by the ravaging of a thousand winds.
I look up to a sky that is busy with clouds, Being pushed ever further away by the coming of the night.
This is the time of the Afterglow; The last imprint of daylight, high in the heavens, It recedes to the horizon, and the faraway mountain.
Soon, within the space of a few short breaths, the glow will have gone, And I will be left, once again, with the remembering of it.
Claimed by Shadow
Another very typical Richards' picture, but more in your magical/fantasy vein.
The perfect shape of the mountain gives it that feeling, together with the complexity of the landscape.
It is a good title. You have three different types of scenery: the mountain in the distance, the hills with their strange long areas of stone (?)
snaking over their highest points and then also the low valleys, with trees and a road or river on the right hand side.
The middle part of it looks like a road, but the part on the right more like a river (I want to say a “silvery sliver of a river!”).
Balancing out the darkness with the rich colours of the sunset works well, and repeating the coral pink and orange in the key areas – just the right amount – is perfect.
I would have been unable to resist the temptation to put more pink and orange, but you know when enough is enough!
There really is a lot going on in this picture, so many different shapes and textures on the surface of the land.
I am used to this feeling and atmosphere in your work.
Mysticism has been described as the life behind the life and magic as the means by which we try to break through to the other dimension.
In this painting, the artist has taken us through the looking glass into the world beyond. A sense of unreality comes over us as we look
at the landscape spread out before us in which huge stones reflect the starlight. The strange violet light heightens the impression that
we are seeing beyond the world of reality into a land of myth. There is an absence of strife in this dreamy painting, the effect of which
is to leave the viewer with an inescapable sense of tranquillity. There are other worlds than our own.
The Night within me
As its title suggests, this painting is about a feeling or mood, rather than landscape. However, the hills and fields in the distance are depicted in some detail.
The use of dark teal, emerald and forest greens cause the picture to remind me of the lush Chew Valley area.
It conveys perfectly the feeling of a dull, dismal day, or the approach of darkness, and at the same time the emotional state of depression;
a feeling of being subdued, low in energy and also looking inwards. The solitary figure of a man with his dog adds the aspect of loneliness.
In a literal sense it is about being in a dark place looking into light. Being in a cave with a view of the sea would give a similar
feeling, or, to a lesser extent, being in a shady area of garden looking onto a sunny lawn.
In a more symbolic sense it describes actual depression, which could be the seasonal kind experienced after the clocks are set back,
when darkness comes increasingly earlier and nights become longer. Or it could relate to a feeling of deep sadness – desolation even, following emotional trauma, which can last for months or years.
The main way this is achieved is by the dark colouring around the edges of the painting. It could be intensified by an even greater area of black.
However, as a contrast or antidote, we have the white clouds and light on the lake – but that light is flat, not sparkling, adding to the effect.
Altogether this shows Richards' skill at conveying a state of mind.
The Covered Bridge
From The Bridges of Madison County of course. I have always loved this story, so simply written but so very moving.
On one level, it portrays the utmost tenderness two people can possibly have for each other, but ultimately it defines
the values of responsibility over temptation. The chances we take, the choices we make…
Here we have Francesca, waiting at the Roseman Bridge for Kincaid
courtesy of the Iowa Tourist Board
The Evening Takes Me from your Side
A personal appreciation by Richard Webster, March 2005.
I purchased this painting in August 2004, for a mixture of personal and aesthetic reasons. The painting is the third part of a trilogy
(following White on the Moon the Long Road Lies and The Reason) celebrating the life and mourning the death, of a dog to whom I had a deep emotional attachment.
I also consider it to be one of Chris' finest works, conveying a landscape scene of haunting beauty.
The scene portrayed is that of a moorland landscape at dusk. In the fore and middle grounds a road twists its way through rocky terrain.
The road is empty, save for the figures of a man and a dog, walking away from the viewer, towards the horizon. On their left, a large
rocky mound rises ominously out of the landscape. In the distance, the horizon is made up of a range of hills, behind which the last
light of the day weakly pierces the dark and cloudy sky.
From a personal point of view, the painting works on two major levels; in its use of colour and light, and the way in which it conveys a
twilight world; and the contrasting impressions it contains in terms of its subject matter. The colours in the painting are a mixture of
rust-reds, bronzes, purples, browns and greys. The colours, and the rocky details of the landscape, give an impression of a wild and untamed
countryside, untouched by civilisation. The road on which the two figures walk appears slick, as if it has just rained; Indeed the whole scene
is bathed in a dim and watery light, and the sky is threatening, as if a rainstorm were about to sweep across the moor. It is the horizon,
and the dying light behind it, however, that convey the strongest impression. As the sun sets unseen behind the hills, weak shards or bronze/orange
light pierce the darkening sky. Rarely if ever have I seen the dying embers of the day, that magical period between light and darkness, and ethereal
other-worldliness sometimes inherent in such conditions, so perfectly conveyed. Unusually for a painting, this works best when viewed in dull light,
as this seems to enhance the effect of the light on the horizon.
The painting is also very powerful in terms of the contradictory impulses and emotions contained within it. Without question, the landscape is a place of beauty,
but it is a stark and haunting beauty. This is a harsh environment that one might best describe as forbidding, even cruel. Within this cruel beauty the figure
of the man and his dog, and their obvious togetherness, convey a sense of warmth and humanity, yet they are so dwarfed by the surrounding emptiness of the landscape,
and so completely isolated within the world of the painting, that one feels almost fearful for them. There are other subtle and unsettling aspects to the painting.
The figures are demonstrably those of a real man and a real dog, yet they appear wispy and slightly indistinct, as if they might be apparitions.
They are walking towards the dying light on the horizon, yet given the distances involved, one knows that they will not reach their destination before nightfall,
if indeed they even have a destination to arrive at. One is left, therefore, with a mixture of contrasting, somewhat unsettling images and emotions –
the landscape that appears strangely familiar, yet completely imaginary and the same time; daytime and night-time; beauty and harshness; togetherness and isolation.
Finally, and in keeping with the sort of contrasts outlined above, my overwhelming impression when I look at this painting is a combination of fondness and sadness.
As I stated at the start of this piece, The Evening Takes Me From Your Side is much more than just an impressive painting to me. It is a painted tribute by one dear friend,
to another dear departed friend. Therefore for all of this painting's many attractions, for all of its skill, for all of its use of colour and light,
for all of its strangeness and intrigue, this will always, for me, be nothing more or less than a painting about Gussie, a dog that I loved very much.
The solitary figure of the woman in this painting has a classical simplicity. We wonder whether she is weeping or dreaming as she sits with her head
in her hands under a full moon. Does she wake or sleep? Her figure is echoed by the strange-shaped trees on the horizon. The landscape seems to flow
away from her like time itself. Is the woman real or mythical, muse or goddess? Looking at this picture we sense that we have broken through to another world.
I’ll Come to You by Moonlight
This painting tells a powerful story and is full of contrast. Light, dark, cold, warmth, beginnings, endings, journeys.
A man walking in the dark on a frosty path with his faithful companion close by, on his own but not alone. He is moving away
from the embrace of the past. Branches urging him forward, roots holding him back. Blues and greens, dark, yet shine with the light.
The dog senses change. The glow from the distant cottage is full of promise. The moon beckons him on. A new beginning is dawning ahead.
This man is in no hurry.
This painting, enjoyed by many in the form of the artist's Christmas card for 2006, is a feast of lovely colours, patterns and textures.
Its generously broad, deep format, offers plenty of room for these.
The sky takes up two thirds of the space. There are gently curved streaks and blotches, of different sizes, for the cloudy areas,
that are spread over the sky, in light and medium tones of blue, turquoise, grey and white, against black. These show a delight in
surface pattern, and create a wonderful, gentle, flowing and relaxing effect.
The Snow Searcher of the title is one of Richards' favourite motifs – a hot-air balloon – in white, standing out against the darkness.
There are prominent snowflakes against both sky and land, the light dots against black and charcoal being similar to a starry sky.
The middle section has the unusual combination of pastel light powder blue, eau de nil, aqua, light jade, mint, and many other shades
of green and gold, streaked with charcoal. This area of mixed colours is set against the long streaks of light and dark orange, marigold,
and golden yellows of the sunset. The full moon has a face on it, which appears to look towards the balloon.
Below this we have a wide, flat expanse of icy wastes, stretched out on either side of the winding river, which is painted in apricot,
burnt orange and saffron. The mixture of snow, ice and earth is very textural, in this respect contrasting with the smoothness of the sunset.
In this painting, the artist has taken what may initially seem to be a rather plain or simple, even empty, subject matter –
a bleak northern land at night in winter, and, through his unique vision and skill, has created a fascinating picture, with a rich variety
of patterns and textures, and a delightful array of colours.