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Too much water

As well as rendering the view from my studio which is dominated by trees and bounded by distant hills, I am guilty of having a fascination with man-made structures and objects in the landscape that transform their setting. (See "Et in Arcadia...") This must be a hangover from all those years as an architect. The most obvious features around here are the railway bridge and the lock on the canal, both of which I painted earlier this year.


This is the third of the pictures I have made of the Wey Navigation this year, and given the date, the last. I feel there is too much narrative detail as I try to simplify but everything here seemed necessary. The next picture, now on my easel addresses this quandary.


Earlier this month we walked down to St Catherine's Lock and looking down into the waterway we were struck by the notice hanging inside the upstream lock gates on the downstream side "High water: Dangerous to proceed." On the other side you could see why.


The water level was high and the spillway was running steadily. The volume of water made it water was glaucous and glassy with strong reflections, which tempted me into making this painting.


A couple of days later I set the composition up directly on the canvas without any preliminary thinking. I wanted to set up a dialogue between the regular shared off lock gates and the free standing post at the edge of the lock which had been worn into curves by the abrasion of ropes. Two things followed: I aligned the lifesaving equipment with the lock gate to make aa sort of Spanish exclamation mark and rendered the gates so the near leaf ran parallel to the verticals of the post and the far leaf runs off to the left diagonally. The curves worn into the post are reflected in the water and set against the bigger curve of the spill way.


I have stacked the horizontal planes vertically to produce a banded image with the water visible bottom right. The concrete edges of the lock are rendered in true elevation, so in a way this is a cubist "perspective" simultaneously showing a synthetic, forced rendering of the lock gates and "true" renderings of the safety railings and the untidy brush beyond. I did not plan it, it just wanted to be shown that way.


There is more in reality there are railings on both sides of the spillway but I have only shown one and way in the distance there is a horizon. The only way you know it is there is through the reflected sky and clouds.




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