John Hitchens/Anthony Garratt: Exploring the Land

4th April 2017

13 May to 17 June 2017

Press Release

This joint exhibition explores the way two artists have responded to the landscape of Sussex both of them painting en plein aire in an expressive spontaneous manner.  John Hitchens’ work in the exhibition spans a 45 year period from the 1970s to the present day and presents a retrospective of his evolving style.  Anthony’s paintings were all completed over the lasyear.

Although he has painted much further afield, John’s work is deeply influenced by the landscape surrounding his home in West Sussex.  He also spent several weeks each year staying at Pagham Harbour and in the 1970s created a series of paintings capturing the atmospheric effects of the beach and salt marshes especially at dawn and dusk. The paintings in the exhibition begin with his early representational works in the 1960s through his increasing experimentation in abstraction where sky and horizon are lost in broad gestural brush strokes.In John’s latest work, gestural evocations of the land are expressed in complex compositions of flat articulate colour.  Reuniting these works separated by so many years reveals fascinating connections and relationships.  The paintings display recurring themes; the rhythms of the seasons, the structure of the land, vistas glimpsed through deep woodland, lines of strata and sediment, contour lines of hills and fields.  The exhibition is an homage to John’s continuing absorption with the organic, changing nature of the landscape whether on a grand sweeping scale or reduced to abstracted patterns of plough lines and hedgerows.  The artist’s eye is continually searching and exploring, never content to stand still.  As John himself says, ‘everything that has gone before is part of what is now’.Anthony’s work by contrast is concerned primarily with the weather and the physical experience and impact of it on a landscape. He is well known for his spectacular out door painting installations which have featured on National Television.  His latest project High Low completed last summer consisted of one enormous outdoor painting which was left floating on lake Llyn Llydawand and a second painting suspended in a near by disused coal mine.
He researches his paintings by exposing himself to the elements, winter storms, summer heat, racing tides, scudding clouds and eerie moonlight often painting outdoors in all weathers.  A trip to Sussex last year inspired him to return and create the work for this show.For Anthony, West Sussex from the downs to the coast offered an abundance of sensory information. Starting at Petworth House, what immediately struck him was that the grassy hills and lines from pathways excavated by Capability Brown were echoed naturally further south as he headed through the Downs. As the light hits and shifts around the lake in front of Petworth House, one’s eye is naturally led from tree to curve, to water, to sky.‘Painting the coast from Selsey to West Wittering is a fascinating and atmospheric journey which feels far removed from the rolling hills of the Downs’, he explained.  Massive vistas and salt marshes enable the experience of raw weather where the continually changing landscape is molded by the tidal state and weather.  ‘The paintings are an impulsive reaction to visiting somewhere for the very first time and capturing the most immediate senses; the sound underfoot, the movement of the weather and land, the smell of the marshes and sea’, he continuedAnthony works by splattering and dribbling, paint across canvases, sometimes mixed with earth and sand, and rust. Often working in the open air, brushes, knives, fingers, palette knives, all play their part and from the seeming chaos an image gradually emerges.Notes on the ArtistsJohn Hitchens
John Hitchens grew up in Graffham, West Sussex and studied at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham Court.    Both his father Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) and his grandfather Alfred Hitchens (1861-1942) were painters and his son Simon Hitchens is a Sculptor.  The wooded Sussex landscape nestling below the South Downs has been a major influence on his work but he also spent extended periods painting in Scotland and Wales.  He began his career as a figurative landscape painter but was experimenting with abstraction by the late 1970s.   From 1990 he has painted in a fully abstract style with a restricted palette of earth pigments.  John’s work was exhibited throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s at the Marjorie Parr Gallery and Montpellier Galleries in London and the David Paul Gallery in Chichester.  His work is in numerous public collections, including Brighton Art Gallery, Bradford City Art Gallery, Brasenose College Oxford, Chase Manhattan Bank New York, and the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne
Anthony Garratt
Anthony studied at Chelsea College of Art, followed by Falmouth College of Arts for a design degree. Having worked as a designer for a few years he decided to become a fulltime painter. He is a regular exhibitor at the Royal West of England Academy.  He has also shown at the RA Summer Exhibition and the Royal College of Arts Henry Moore Gallery. This is Bristol  listed Anthony Garratt ‘as the next David Hockney’. Anthony was invited to paint the Diamond Jubilee Pageant from the Millennium Bridge.  He has been involved in three inspirational outdoor projects.  In September 2014 – Alfresco on Tresco in which he worked on four massive paintings in the open air, leaving them in situ exposed to the elements for four months.  He followed this with a similar project from March – October 2015 FOUR Angelsey in North Wales.  In 2016 he completed High Low an installation in the Snowdonia National Park which consisted of one enormous outdoor painting which was left floating on lake Llyn Llydaw.and a second painting suspended in a near by disused coal mine. The installations attracted huge media coverage including BBC & ITV news and a feature on Countryfile.  Anthony has had numerous highly successful shows throughout the UK.A selection from the exhibition will be previewed in nearby Petworth Park, landscaped by Capability Brown and immortalised by Turner, at The Petworth Park Antiques and Fine Art Fair May 5 – 7.  This exhibition runs concurrently with the Summer Sculpture exhibition – see separate press release.
THE MONCRIEFF-BRAY GALLERYBased in a group of 18th-century former farm buildings on the edge of the Petworth estate, the gallery holds regular exhibitions of contemporary art and sculpture. A spectacular oak framed barn houses the interior gallery space, and the surrounding landscaped gardens are an ideal setting for domestic sculpture. The gallery is committed to showing both established artists and those who are not widely represented elsewhere. Just over an hour’s drive from central London, the gallery is located in the heart of the South Downs National Park, enjoying spectacular views over the Rother Valley and up to the South Downs.EELSPETH MONCRIEFF, DIRECTORFormer curator and arts writer Elspeth Moncrieff set up the Moncrieff-Bray Gallery in 2005. An experienced curator, she has worked for the V&A, and as a former art market correspondent for The Art Newspaper and Deputy Editor of Apollo magazine. She applies her experience of the international art world to her South Downs gallery.OPENING HOURS
Wednesday to Saturday 11 am to 4 pm but we welcome visitors by appointment at any time.FURTHER INFORMATION: contact. Elspeth Moncrieff   Tel: 07867 978 414 –
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