This week I visited According to McGee, a contemporary gallery situated opposite Clifford’s Tower in York city centre, to view their latest exhibition entitled ‘Dream Catcher.’ This all-female spectacle runs with International Women’s Day and Dream Catcher poetry magazine in mind. Works by Rachael Burnett, Janine Baldwin, Freya Horsley, Amrik Varkalis and Francine Cross are displayed. The exhibition is carefully curated, giving each artist their own place to shine, while the works complement one another through their themes and colours.
One artist particularly stood out for me, so I will discuss her paintings here. Freya Horsley’s work was the last I came across as I walked through the gallery. Horsley is led by the landscape; she is interested in the relationship between real and painted space; while endeavouring to explore different levels of looking.
Freya explains that few of her works are specific to place; that on the contrary her work is progressively about:
“Finding a space in the paint, allowing it to evolve as I work and responding to what appears based on layers of experiences and things seen. I draw out in the landscape (and it’s important for me to do that and to sit looking and recording) but I make the paintings in my studio, rarely referring directly to drawings.”
The artist focuses on memories of the sights, sounds and feelings of a place, then moves back to her studio to approach the work freely, with a certain degree of separation, to allow for ingenuity. ‘White Days’ (above) exemplifies Freya’s studio processes: it is clear that she gives herself creative license aside from being specific to forms seen in real life; rather than specifically delineating the moors, the sea or the mountains realistically, Horsley’s work becomes like a vision, with a pensive and introspective tone. There is a true feeling of freedom to her painting; her work does not seem self-conscious or imitative.
The artist articulates the special ability that paint has in terms of quietening or giving further exclamation to elemental motion, which is evident in ‘Float’ (above). A vicious, threatening dark area of the painting seems inescapable in its relation to the calmer, lighter portions of the canvas: the darkness seems to overwhelm and swallow its surroundings, while bright turquoise and yellow give relief and further potency to the darkness.
Freya’s work strongly engages with the fluctuation of the natural world. In ‘Murmuring’ (above) the profusion of layers, colours and textures produce a sense of motion, of transition and instability. This is furthered by the variety of materials and techniques the artist uses:
“At the moment I’m using lots of materials – oil paint, acrylic paint, wax, spray paint, markers, oil pastels, dye granules, collage etc. I start the paintings on the floor and get them very wet – lots of pouring and tilting. At times I’m really physical with surface – scratching, sanding and so on; at other times I have to be much more sensitive with it.”
This is apparent in ‘Split’ (below) and ‘Renewal’ (second below). The former consists of an array of vibrant and vigorous colours, making for a painting of enduring strength and impact. Its title implies division that is visible in terms of the blast of black paint that appears to arrive like a wave in the ocean to the left, while lively yellow, red and blue tones can be perceived to explore aspects of land and sky in contrast to water. Within the latter work there is simultaneously serenity, predominantly to the right, and chaotic disorder and impermanence to the left. This is a wide and intriguing work; neon pinks and yellows vie for our attention, opposing one another at left and right. Using bold colours, and creating a sense of motion through line, Horsley is successful in presenting natural disarray; exploring the force within a wave, a gust, or storm. There is a sense of everlasting tidal flux, while areas of calm feature towards the base of the canvas, implied through smoother, softer paint.
Freya Horsley was born in Bath and now resides in Yorkshire. She draws inspiration from the county’s seascapes and landscapes, while frequently travelling internationally and recording memories of her adventures. Further information can be found on Horsley’s website, including details of forthcoming exhibitions and York Open Studios in April.
‘Dream Catcher’ runs until 9th March 2014. Details can be found on According to McGee’s website.
Freya Horsley, White Days. Mixed media on canvas, 58 x 65 cm
Freya Horsley, Float. Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 100 cm
Freya Horsley, Murmuring. Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Freya Horsley, Split. Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Freya Horsley, Renewal. Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 100 cm
Katherine April Caddy, 5th March 2014.