Stella Agnew: The Edge of the Downs

Published 3 June 2020

Artists, in general, are not easily bored. They spend a long time training their hand, head and eye in making ‘something out of nothing’ and seeing the infinite possibilities that an object or scene can present. A simple and familiar object can become a vehicle for an artist to express their emotion, tell a story, explore the unexpected colours or light in front of them. Morandi spent many years making the most beautiful paintings out of a few objects arranged in different ways so that the abstract shapes and combinations of colours presented endless possibilities to him. So to be stuck at home with an empty diary, a houseful of mostly grown up children, and space to paint, seemed like a gift.

However, the emotional rollercoaster that was the beginning of Covid, played havoc with my concentration. I was unwilling and unable to focus for long enough to tackle painting. I worked on some prints made for earlier drawings alongside my daughter Elsie who was making and selling wonderful Lino cuts. I painted a panel for each of my children which I had been meaning to do for years. My theme for them was Memories of Childhood. I found it calming and joyful to use imagination, memory and dream-like combinations of subjects personal to each child. By the time I finished these panel, I felt calmer and ready to focus for the long periods of time that painting can demand.

I painted a portrait (from a photo and video) of an NHS worker as part of an initiative - Portraits for NHS Heroes - started by the artist Tom Croft. It is a tribute and acknowledgment of their hard work, and a record of these strange times. Many artists have participated and an exhibition of the portraits is planned for when this is all over.

The Edge of the Downs, oil on canvas, 61 x 76 cms

The Edge of the Downs, oil on canvas, 61 x 76 cms

Now that we are allowed out, I am ‘running for the hills’. I have been painting the landscape locally on the edge of the Downs. The landscape is dramatic and spacious, and being perched on the side of it feels even more intense after the period spent confined to our homes.

So from all of this comes a new appreciation of the simple and the local. Who needs to go long distances when there are incredible things immediately around us if we look hard enough, or if we are forced, by circumstance to see what we have. Right from the start of the lockdown, the air seemed clearer, and the colours brighter. I hope I can retain this, and the feeling of freedom and awe when you see things afresh.

A Weekly View


Painting of the Week: Henrietta Dubrey

Painting of the Week: Beatrice Hasell-McCosh

Painting of the Week:  Caroline Popham

Painting of the Week: Sonia Barton

Painting of the Week: Daniel Ablitt

Stella Agnew: The Edge of the Downs

Dot Wade: Notes from Isolation

Painting of the Week: Susan Ashworth

Life under Covid-19 by Sandy Brown, for Josie Eastwood

Painting of the Week: Emma McClure

An open Letter from Jeremy Annear to Josie Eastwood

Muddy Stilettos Award: We Won!

Thank you so much for your support by voting for our gallery in the 2018 Muddy Stilettos competition. Thanks to you, for the second year running we have won the Best Art Gallery Award for our area!