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Gallery exhibition

Hedge Story by Ursula Leach 4 May to 1 June 2024

May 4th 2024,

The Art Stable, Kelly Ross Fine Art, Child Okeford, Blandford, Dorset DT11 8HB

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“Colour establishes the mood and inflects the bold structures of Leach’s images.  Through images of rare and surprising beauty she makes us look again at our surroundings.”

Andrew Lambirth

Ursula Leach is a colourist whose subject is the landscape surrounding her.  For many years Ursula lived in Cranborne, Dorset, in the middle of big open fields, and her work reflected that, but after a move to Iwerne Minster, only a couple of miles from The Art Stable, she is now surrounded by a smaller patchwork of fields and woods, many of which are contained by ancient hedges.

So when Ursula saw an article in a national newspaper last year, asking for volunteers to survey hedges for The Great Big Dorset Hedge initiative, she took part.  With that deepened knowledge added to her enthusiasm of this new visual landscape, Ursula has made hedges the subject of this, her fifth solo exhibition at The Art Stable, working up oil paintings and carborundum prints in the studio from drawings, colour notes and photographs, made from observing distinctive aspects of hedges in their settings.

The canvas provides a forum for investigating pictorial space, creating a dialogue between interior, sometimes bare space (large areas of unbroken colour) and the hedge or the edge of the canvas.  It is the formal demands of image making that really engage me, space, shape and especially colour.  Colour is used in a way that is non-literal.  Placing colours one against the other is intended to evoke a parallel to the atmosphere of the subject (landscape) however different that colour is from reality. Colour establishes the mood and offers a broad range of optical and emotional pleasures.  Although I am a formal artist I am also concerned with the subject and as with colour, the liminal area between the abstract and the figurative.
 
Hedges are surprisingly colourful when you look closely, catching the light in different ways, dotted with berries or speckled with blossom.  Playing with colour excites me and hopefully creates the mood I wish to express.  By radical simplification and constant editing of colour, shape and composition I hope to stimulate a direct reaction in the audience.
 
My partner has been a hedge layer, grower and planter so the project makes a happy and perfect circle.

Shape and colour lead us to the heart of Ursula Leach’s work: her interpretation of the landscape in and around Cranborne Chase. She examines field systems and notes the effects of new agricultural methods. Her gloriously heightened colour reflects the changes in crop and soil treatment. She draws first in the landscape to understand its forms, and then re-works her observations in the studio, exploring her responses to things seen. Colour establishes the mood and inflects the bold structures of Leach’s images, and offers a broad range of optical and emotional pleasures. Although Leach is a formal artist, interested in the interplay of geometric and organic, she is equally concerned with subject. She looks to the land as our essential context, and comments on the all-too-frequent spoliation of it. In the rigour of its formal simplifications, her work goes beyond appearances and investigates underlying shapes and patterns. As Robert Motherwell so emphatically put it: ‘no rendering of the appearance of reality can move us like a revelation of its structure.’ Through images of rare and surprising beauty, Ursula Leach makes us look again at our surroundings.

Andrew Lambirth

 

The art of Ursula Leach is both spare and richly layered, as is the land she has chosen to reveal through paint. Cranborne Chase is an open landscape of arable fields, grazed downland and pastures that spread to a distant horizon. These expanses may be defined by the dark profile of a barn, the shade of a small copse, the crease of a chalk stream, the linearity of hedgerow and fence. She conveys the tension between these elements through her use of bounded shapes, poised lines, loosely scattered marks and sensitive painterly surfaces. But it is through colour she reveals that this land is poised on an uncertain edge. Changing farming practices and a panoply of modern chemicals have made their imprint on the colours and textures of the landscape. Greens and yellows may have a fluorescent bloom; red and ochre can take on an uneasy heat. Ursula Leach has developed a language that follows the long absorption of British artists with the land, but has made it her own.

Annette Ratuszniak Curator, Elisabeth Frink Archive & Estate

 

Ursula Leach trained in fine art at Winchester, Wimbledon and West Surrey Colleges of Art. She has exhibited widely in solo, group and touring exhibitions in the UK, Japan and Australia most recently in The Sydney Contemporary Art Fair.  Touring exhibitions include Elemental Insight at the Met Office, Exeter and museums nationwide, Circles and Tangents at Dorset County Museum and Salisbury Museum. Leach has been included in many Open prize shows such as The Threadneedle Prize Exhibition, London, The Hunting Art Prizes at The Royal College of Art, The Discerning Eye, London and International and National Open Print Exhibitions where she has three times won prizes and is a fellow of the Bankside Gallery. She has also shown at The Royal Academy, Southampton City Art Gallery and The Mostyn Art Gallery, Llanduduno. There have been reviews in The Week, The Wall Street Journal, Galleries magazine, The Spectator (Andrew Lambirth) and Contemporary Art magazine, the most recent in 2016 in The Week. Leach is also included in several publications amongst others Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking, Printmakers Secrets, Circles and Tangents, Art in the Shadow of Cranborne Chase and 50 Wessex Artists.  This is Ursula’s fourth solo exhibition at The Art Stable.