"The main thrust of the exhibition is the work I produced in Cyprus, over a Residency which for various reasons, Covid being the major one lasted a full year. It’s been a journey in so many ways not least of all in paint, fuelled by the uniqueness of the living space in which I worked - a rustic and simple oasis, with one foot very much in a by gone age that reminded me very much of my own childhood in the rural Highlands. Of course this other world, I suddenly found myself in was also another world altogether, not least of all in terms of colour and light, but also the richness of plants, and of course the heat, something I planned initially to avoid, at least the high summer part but my fellow tenant, of pretty much my entire stay, who had been there before at that time of year explained how it would seep right inside you, inhabit you. It’s only now I know what he meant by that.
A gallery asked me to prepare an on line studio talk on my work, a few months into the Residency. One of the questions they asked was who was my favourite artist - I found myself thinking of Van Gogh, for many reasons not least for otherworldly journey into a world of colour, light and heat. Other works in the show lead toward this - studies in France and also the oils too, which have impressionist leanings and no shortage of Surrealism too, not least of all a recurring motif - the Spaceman - manifesting itself within a range of settings - from abandoned buildings and ruins of civilisations, an apparition from another time that meets our own. There’s a cartoon like humour about this narrative but beneath the comic exterior there is a more complex mysterious edge too.
I am reminded of Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘The Wanderer’. I have produced my own version of it here in the show - it was painted just after the first stage of lockdown when I got back into my studio in Edinburgh after two months being shut out of it. Like a lot of people I was experiencing a wanderlust but at the same time we were all also thinking a lot of our inner spaces , our loved ones, and those we were separated from, by distance and or time. The picture reminds me of my late father - I had no intention to paint it there - it just emerged from the canvas. He was a lover of the out doors and Japanese print and trees and of course wandering too. It’s not literally him of course - it could be me, it could be you stepping into the beyond. That yonder is not just a physical space its a psychological one too. And so it is with the astronaut, who like some portal draws us in to journey which is as much a journey through inner space as it is about any any outer one.
There is a Zeitgeist about all this too - a certain edge that frames the sense of escape. You can see that most literally in F.U.B.A.R. 111, which has a very Middle Eastern, war torn feel. ‘Tribe
‘ was produced after a visit to the Museum of Cyprus, where there is an astonishing ceramic installation from antiquity, featuring thousands of ceramic sculptures stacked together. Something of the underlying political unrest of the region seeps over the canvas. Fire was a constant danger throughout my stay - and flames would often light up the night sky. There is also the sense of partition - a divided island, empty mosques and long abandoned houses home only to ghosts and wandering cats.
Along with the conceptual elements there is a plein air existential quality at the heart of all of what you see - the watercolours all being painted in-situ in front of their subjects and the oils though some started their lives inside the studio were completed in an outdoor yard. I wanted to immerse myself in the colour and atmosphere of the outdoors, to retain that immediacy and vibrancy of the experience, to understand the light. There are elements of Fauvism, again Impressionism, Expressionism and perhaps just a little smattering of my good old friend Van Gogh."
Arran Ross 2022