Lionel Playford

Artist Bio

I walk, draw, paint and imagine landscape.  Even when I'm sitting on a rock to draw I'm moving, doing, feeling, thinking. This is not a passive eye of observation nor an objective eye of scientific measurement. Working in a landscape I feel part of it's energy including the wind on my face, the changing light and the sounds all around. Drawing makes me feel more connected: I see the landscape but it sees me in a funny sort of way. All of this outdoor experience over decades feeds into whatever happens in the studio. Paintings that emerge in the studio are kind of synthesis of outdoor experience but they are journeys in their own right sometimes into worlds I have never seen.

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 landscapes where I feel at home, where I know the routes through and around, and the temperament and rhythms of it- like an animal would. I feel at home in the North Pennines, most of Cumbria, in North and mid Wales, Arisaig, 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, Ivon Hitchens, John Piper, John Constable and many other landscape painters who painted what they knew.

My recent landscape painting has been an attempt to evoke my emotional experience of being in the landscape, of living on the skin of the earth, breathing in 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 studio painting are works in oils or acrylics, usually unframed but I have a significant body of outdoor drawings and colour works in various media. In 2014 I made 100 large drawings in the North Pennines and northern Lake District as part of a Leverhulme Trust artist's residency with Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne. This project involved working with various climate change scientists, observing their work in the field 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 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 which will be installed in the new Museum of the Ocean when it's complete.

Since 2019 I have been working on small projects in County Durham connected with ancient woodland. This has involved working with schools and local communities and will culminate in a large exhibition of woodland based paintings and drawings in Hartlepool Art Gallery in 2023.

Since the early 1990s I have worked on many community based projects in both inner cities and in rural locations. Most recently I was artist in residence for the Fellfoot Forward Project with the  North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty working with a village community group at Renwick near Penrith to help them produce a woodland themed mural for the local methodists chapel.

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