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Welcoming people to the opening of Earth and Stone, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by John A. Smith and David Waters, local printmaker Diana Orinda Burns drew attention to the strong sense of place evoked in the exhibition. She pointed out how the exhibition conveyed the sensations of being in the landscape, not only seeing, feeling, but how hearing and imagination help channel a new understanding of place.

Both artists use earth and stone in their works, John in his ground gravel and earth pigments, David with his volcanic basalt sculptures and pigment paint. Both engage the viewer in ceremony and ritual, whether it be a mark in the landscape or a pattern on a rock, reminding us of the fragility of the earth we stand on, and the importance of creativity to bridge time and cultures.

Referring to John’s paintings, Diana said: “We are not outsiders, we are one with country, this is not a landscape but an actual place of being, it has no artifice or pretence, the paint surface rises up to meet us, inviting us to just be. We travel through exterior spaces to the interior space of place where imagination meets the mysteries of history and what has happened before.”

The Celtic weaving patterns on some of David’s sculptures and paintings, also drew her attention. Diana noted that the method is simple, with a simple figure-of-eight or infinity sign creating a pattern that is said to bring harmony, balance, unity, and rhythm. The clay-rendered weft pattern in his paintings are subtle and considered, conveying a sense of connectedness and belonging. In Diana’s eyes, harmony with oneself, others and the environment are at the heart of David’s work.

David’s pigments are not permanent; he causes no harm to the environment nor to each rock’s natural form and surface. In time, his drawings on the volcanic basalt collected from his home in Redesdale will wash away, but the invisible networks that express his intention will remain. Rock paintings and the rituals associated with them take us back to the beginnings of art history as we know it.

John Smith, Diana Orinda Burns, David Waters

Diana concluded that, for her, the exhibition is refined in its material content but very raw in the questions it provokes. It offers a humility where reverence prevails.

Open each weekend until 26 August. Don’t miss it!