Helen Glassford’s Immerse at the Tatha Gallery is an exhibition of over forty-five oil paintings that the artist has been working on for over a year, inspired by the fascination she has with the sensory experience of the landscape; the forces at play (both physical and psychological); and the wild and unpredictable personalities of nature. What we see here are what some might consider ‘the empty places’ – deserted beaches and rocky outcrops on the periphery of the Far Northern reaches of Scotland.
As reported in Issue no.2 of Art North magazine, the love and passion for being out there in the wildness of a landscape such as that which Glassford frequents as a painter was first kindled when walking in the Lake District hills as a child. Vivid memories of the smell of the air, the light on the mountains, and the sense of solitude that it evoked, all remain with her today and are as much the subject of her art as the landscape itself that she paints.
When in 1995 she moved to the East Coast of Scotland to study at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, it was the lure of the light and the easy escape routes to the hills and beaches that understandably were the draw, and as a consequence she made her home here, now living and working in Newport on Tay, where she established the Tatha Gallery – a space that has done much to advance the careers of artists of all ages and revitalise the art scene across the water from Dundee.
As I wrote myself, in the pages of Art North, “being ever aware of the transient nature of life that the landscape she is most drawn to evokes may be one thing, but what is it like to be an artist who is also Director of one of the most respected galleries in the region?” Now showing her own work at the Tatha Gallery, are there “any dilemmas, as if crossing an line should she do so?”
My conclusion was, and remains, that she has certainly earned the privilege of presenting her work to a wide audience in her own gallery, as she does now, and it is not before time. It’s not as though she has thrust herself at collectors by utilising the space for self-promotion, as anyone who knows Helen will agree: In fact, she has gone out of her way to put together an inspired exhibition schedule over recent years, promoting artists either senior in stature or new to the market.
There is something rather special in fact, in knowing that the artist is a person who, in presenting her own work to the public, knows intimately herself the hard-won struggle to bring such work to fruition, and all that goes with making the transition from easel to gallery wall as an exhibition nears. Of the work itself, Helen has written of her journeys to soak in the landscape:
Getting to know the landscape is a mysterious hunt and will perhaps always remain elusive. Yet it is as perplexing and as intangible as any other relationship. The dark hills forbid yet entice. The thin light on the water is fragile and uplifting. Softening light at the end of the day uniﬁes landscapes to a single texture and quilts its harder edges. It is the fascination for these transient beauties of the landscape and the weather it wears that will forever inspire me.
Without a doubt, the art that Helen Glassford excavates in her search for the illusive qualities of the Scottish landscape that is her inspiration is every bit as eloquent as her writing on her own art. I therefore encourage anybody with an interest in contemporary landscape painting, or those who are willing to extend their interest to include such a powerful body of work, to be sure of adding the Tatha Gallery to their itineraries over the coming weeks, and be sure to give time to take in Glassford’s Immerse.
Helen Glassford | Immerse
21 June 2019 – 24 August 2019
Preview and Book Launch: 21 June (6.30–8.30pm).
1 High Street