I’m drawn to the idea of imagined landscapes. A sense of place is vital to my writing, and often I take inspiration from real places, but alter them to suit my own preferences and needs. In the RWA‘s Imagined Landscapes exhibition, on at the galleries in Bristol until 12th June 2016, artists have create works from places they’ve known and dreamt.
One of my favourites, Severn Waterscape (for Owain Jones) by Iain Biggs, melds digital photos and ‘cancelled’ maps with the artist’s own marks to explore a tidal landscape. I’m a hit-and-miss map readers, but a lover of maps for their own beauty, and feel that Biggs has imbued his diptych with both a hint of his own personality and a sense of the energy of the place it represents.
Other strong pieces include Some:When by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada, a collaborative art project that responded to the severe flooding of the Somerset Moors and Levels. The piece on show takes the shape of a handmade boat called a Flatner, built from reclaimed and new materials.
In the adjoining galleries you’ll find Inquisitive Eyes: Sade Painters in Edwardian Wessex, 1900-1914. This exhibition offers a rich insight into the lives and delights of some of England’s best loved painters, including John Everett and Augustus John.
The final gallery holds a more modern interpretation of our surroundings, as Simon Quadrat explores the social awkwardness and built beauty of cafes, buses, and greenhouses. While not every painting features figures, their presence is always suggested, and most that do appear look decidedly at odds with the place they inhabit. In Cafe Garden, only the waitress seems relaxed – every other person present is apparently on the brink of bickering.
Quadrat’s paintings wriggle with narrative, making them ideal writing prompts. I urge you to visit the RWA, soak up some inspiration, and see what tales emerge.
The three exhibitions seem to flow into one another, each capturing the atmosphere rather than the mirror image of a place, and creating an impression of setting that’s all the more evocative for that.
Imagined Landscapes, Inquisitive Eyes and Simon Quadrat PPRWA are at the RWA until 12th June 2016. Ticket prices apply. Find out more at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/.