lionel playford

Most of my painting and drawing activity of the last 30 years has been landscape painting. My relationship with landscape is an active one of movement and doing rather a passive observation. The act of landscape painting, indoors or outdoors, implies knowledge of landscape from daily first-hand experience, not as a passing tourist, but as a dwelling inhabitant. For me part of the meaning of landscape painting is an exploration of ‘home’, so my paintings explore the feel of landscapes where I feel at home, where I know the routes through and the temperament and rhythms of it- like an animal would. I feel at home in the North Pennines, The Lake District, in North Wales, Cornwall, Tyneside, Northumberland, County Durham, in Cleveland Ohio and in West Yorkshire where I was born and brought up. Venice is without any doubt a beautiful city but I don’t feel at home there, even though I once visited and drew it. In this way I identify with the works of Paul and John Nash, Paul Cezanne, Winifred Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, John Constable and many other landscape painters.

My recent landacape painting has been an attempt to evoke my emotional experience of being in the landscape, of living on the skin of the earth, breathing the atmosphere, bathing in the light and realising both the toughness and vulnerability of of this planet’s thin surface and the briefness of my time here. Some moments of experience have a heightened feel, often to do with the flux of weather and light, so, capturing the feel of sky, even at night, is critical to both my outdoor responses in drawing and watercolour, and my studio works in acrylic, oils and combined media.

Most of my landscape painting are works in oils or acrylics, usually unframed but I have a significant body of outdoor drawings and colour works in various media. Recently I made 100 large drawings in the North Pennines and northern Lake District as part of a Leverhulme Trust sponsored artist’s residency with Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne. This ongoing project involved working with climate change scientists, observing their work and using their facilities and materials to create new and ambitious works of art including landscape painting. One of the unexpected outcomes was a series of paper clouds made out of moorland grass and moss pulps as well as some sculptures of pollen grains found under the microscope in peat core samples. These have been exhibited in Baltic 39 in Newcastle upon Tyne, at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and other venues in the north east of England.

Another unexpected outcome was a residency on board the German icebreaking research vessel Polarstern on a climate change research voyage from Bremerhaven to Cape Town. This led to a major commission for a large, multi-panel, collage painting for the Alfred Wegener Institute to celebrate 125 years of oceanographic research on the island of Helgoland.

Recent gallery exhibitions have featured large and small landscape painting in acrylics and oils as well as drawings in mixed media including watercolour, oil pastel and found natural materials. The style ranges from naturalistic to non-objective (abstract) depending on the ideas and feelings I’m trying to work through, though I prefer not to be pigeon-holed by uninformed critics or by galleries with narrow creative interests.