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TRCH David Suchet

Art Works: Rob White

17 September 13 words: Art Works

"The sky at over 4000m above sea level is unreal, a blue so deep it could drive a painter to insanity"

Mil Mi-8 to Pikhora by Rob White

Landscape has been an interest since being a child, I was brought up in suburban Nottingham and was fascinated with what lay beyond the roof tops. From my bedroom window I vividly remember a small gap between two interlocking hills, through which I could clearly see distant verdant fields. This sliver of landscape became a focal point, it induced a sense of wonder and symbolised something beautiful and different.

During the summer of 1996, before the final year of my degree, I travelled for three months through Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal. Combined with a long standing interest in travel, exploration, travel writing and mountaineering, I decided to base my art works on my experiences in these countries and journeys through their respective landscapes. My research took the form of written travel journals, sketchbooks packed full of smudged scribbles and thousands of photographs. I also relied heavily on the power of memory to evoke powerful feelings and imagery.

The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal became the main focus for my project, during my five weeks in country I undertook a 21 day trek into the Annapurna mountain range. Trekking is by far the best way to get to know a landscape, especially when you have an ample amount of time, you get to appreciate sublime isolation, combined with deep moments of contemplation. On foot you feel the land beneath your feet, physically you get to know it as you meander with the pathway through the mountains. Starting with rice fields and steaming jungle in the lowlands, you then move steadily upwards under a dense canopy of towering rhododendron towards lush cooler deciduous forests. Leaving the familiar behind, you enter among hill sides bristling with cloud piercing giant pines before finally arriving in a dry lunar landscape formed of ice, glaciers and rock. It is a complete assault on the senses, as you climb higher you travel through most of the worlds climate zones in less than ten days.

Colour at all elevations is super vivid, the terraced rice fields glow a green I have no words to describe, the sky at over 4000m above sea level is an unreal blue, a blue so deep it lets you know you’re on the edge of space. It is this blue that could drive a painter to insanity, as there isn’t a pigment in my paint set or a hex value in Photoshop which could match it. The only item in my armory that came slightly close to replicating its subtle yet deep complexity was 35mm slide film. Other than actually looking up at the Himalayan sky, the only way to see this heavenly hue is in memory.

Mil Mi-8 to Pokhara was the final painting from a set of twenty one I produced based on my time spent in the Annapurna mountains. It is based on memory of a forty five minute helicopter ride out of Jomsom to Pokhara where my trek started. The instance the Russian helicopter left the dust strewn Kali Gandaki river bed, this painting was in the making. Inside this noisy machine were sacks of rice, baskets of chickens and goats lashed down along the centre. I sat with a tiny porthole to my back, amongst a dozen Nepali people on tiny benches that ran along both sides and the length of the craft. Peering through this circular scratched porthole, as a fish in a bowl would look out from its watery world, I could see the ochre and beige desert peel away beneath me.

The rotor blades and engine making a high pitched hum, the whole machine shaking and groaning like a living beast, like being in the abdomen of a giant locust as it vibrated into the sky. The sense of riding suspended in a light gas, serene yet strangely violent, the unreal blue of the Himalayan sky from the porthole window and seeing the summits of Nilgiri (7,061m) and Annapurna I (8,091m) rising from a thick bank of white cloud. The strange hovering motion, the black strobing of the rotors, the dull grey blue interior of the machine, my mind and body were recording this experience in every minute detail and I knew that this was later going to become a piece of work.

So enraptured with this experience I didn’t stop to take any photographs of the ride out, I instead wrote a detailed diary entry the following night and made some vague sketches of what I saw and felt. This is how I process these works, by letting the experience settle in mind for six months or more, I then revisited my travel diary and began extracting the essence of my experience and translating them into images.

The painting itself probably took no longer than half an hour to execute, it was painted on gesso primed six millimeter plywood, using acrylic paints and a 4B pencil. My thinking is that if I can work the piece up quickly, then the frantic nature of the exercise is going to produce a more honest piece. What I mean by honest is that if I am prior primed with all the emotions and feelings of the event in mind and then unleash this in medium onto the prepared surface in an instance, then what appears before me is an honest translation of what I experienced. If I were to take time over the process of making the piece I would become distracted by other ideas and thoughts and something otherly would enter into the formation of the art.

You Fucking Your Dog by Rob White

The other piece of work is You Fucking Your Dog. Both pieces of work follow the same process, but come from different places within myself. The style of work which I have been seen to be producing of recent is quirky, rude, shocking, hopefully funny, rather brass neck, fun and slightly naughty. I started producing this work during a period of deep and dark bereavement following the death of my beloved father from lung cancer. Like my beautiful journey through wonderful landscapes in the Annapurna mountains, the spiritual journey through the inner landscape of trauma, pain and loss is also a rich source of creative material, should you wish to delve into the nether regions of your own being. The only real striking difference with trekking in the Annapurna mountains and navigating yourself through bereavement, is that an innumerable amount of people have traversed this lonely, dark landscape and not one of them has had the decency to leave a map.

Rob White's Art Hole

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