Riders in the Forest, 2005, watercolour 19" x 24".
This painting is a response to Arthur Melville's Arabs returning from Burning a Village. Obviously it is not concerned with Melville's subject matter, but it follows his technique of working on very wet paper, using various stages of drying to add further layers of colour, sponging out unnecessary detail and using these sponged out areas tonally as part of the composition. Someone said to me "What you're talking about sounds really simple", but as anyone who has tried it will know, it is a great challenge to control big brushfuls of colour dropped onto soaking wet paper, and it can be such a pleasurable achievement when it works out well. My way of working has always been to paint in the studio from memory, using drawings made on the spot and photographic reference to make more or less invented compositions, so I was interested to learn that Melville accumulated a huge store of sketches and drawings on his travels in Egypt and Turkey which he continued to use as reference for finished paintings created in the studio almost until his early death twenty years later. Some paintings were worked up accurately from sketches and others were semi-imaginary from memory. Melville was interested, as I am, in the ideas of the symbolists, particularly Whistler, and their doctrine, as defined by Gauguin, that drama and memory are ultimately more important than observation of the real world as practised by the Impressionists.
Copyright © June Berry 2012. Page updated 24th January 2012.