Northern Lights by Marina Vaizey

The world around us has long been a repository, a receptacle, for the deepest human emotions, as we search to express the meaning - for us - of landscape in its fullest sense. Feelings of awe and wonder have at times been overwhelming and specific to the northern tradition of landscape. This may be integral to the romantic tradition, as expressed in theory and in practice by the artist critic John Ruskin, not to mention that master of elusive suggestion and atmosphere, J. M. W. Turner, and the miniature and meticulous wondrous dreamscapes by Caspar David Friedrich, in both of which the human figure is often used for expressive and significant punctuation.

The last fifty years or so have seen a scholarly revolution, and increased understanding of the meaning of landscape in western art, and especially northern art.

Professor Robert Rosenblum published his seminal study 'Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: From Friedrich to Rothko' in 1977. The darkness of winter is sharply contrasted with the silvery almost never ending light of summer, above all the north has sky, ceaselessly changing sky, Constable's clouds, Friedrichs dawns and twilights, Turner's sunrises and sunsets, Rothko - who came from Russia and whose childhood was spent in the northwest of America - and his horizons, have all expanded our visual vocabularies, our notions of endlessly changing and informing light.
The watercolours of Janet Pierce take their place as an original vision within the living context of the meaning of landscape. Her vision imaginatively interprets visions. Those vast skyscapes, sheets of shimmering water, seas in ceaseless moment, that we have all witnessed, suggestively on that border where the visual imagination is akin to the musical imagination.

Significantly, a detail of a painting by Janet is reproduced for the cover for the 1999 recording of Gaelic song, Idir an dá Sholas, between the two lights, by Maighread and Triona Ní Dhomhnaill with Donal Lunny.
Janet Plerce's newest work is deliberately related to these songs of twilight, dusk, evening, sunset, the slow turn of the day to night. Borders are omnipresent in ideas of Ireland and of Scotland, where Janet Pierce spent her childhood. Now she lives on the edge of the sea, under Irish skies. Her images move from the specific to the universal.
Janet's numerous paintings capture light, the idea of change and also the dissolution of borders, journeys in time and space, expressed through that essential of the artist, coloured light. All is flux, constant movement, shapes turning and flowing, metamorphosing, never static or sharply outlined.

The series 'Idir an dá Sholas' - Between the Lights - plays on horizons, even on the idea of curtains, of rain, of mist, of night meeting the earth and framing evanescent ephemeral light. The softness of dark light frames oranges and pinks, light greys and blues. 'Treasna' - Across - is a series of windows, the framing of light, thus a rectangle. These theatres of the natural, where the characters entangling, separating and coming together are time expressed in the changing movement of light, are strikingly and memorably grand. Yet Janet Pierce's paintings are also intimate, for it is our glance, our gaze that is captured by these marvellous distillations of the northern light and dark of the turning planet.
Marina Vaizey   June 2000©

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