“Nothing is more alien to me than an art which sets out to serve other purposes than those implied in the work itself... I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than what we actually see. We know that all that we can see of the objective world never really exists as we see and understand it. Matter exists, of course, but has no intrinsic meaning of its own, such as the meanings we attach to it."
These paintings are a result of Simon Averill’s ongoing fascination with landscape. More specifically they are an attempt to respond to the fleeting and transitory effects of light and how it acts upon particular locations that hold a resonance for him. These paintings are not intended, however, to be a specific record of a place; on site he might make drawings and often reference notes, but by the time he reaches the studio and tries to draw out the memory, we reach a different locus altogether.
The process of painting introduces infinite variables. In Averill’s case, the early formative stage of making a painting is full of speculative painterly language. In the latter phase, Averill’s preoccupation is with the surface of the paint itself as an attempt to establish a balance and subdue the maker’s mark. Averill describes a desire for the painting to feel “almost as if it might have made itself.” This is a precarious conversation with paint, of trying to control and impose his will whilst allowing the matter to have its say. Averill states “When it works well it is a dialogue.”
Some time ago, Averill made the decision to pare down and simplify, in order to try and capture the essential aspects of his subject. As a result the use of colour also became more restrained. In these recent works it is used tonally to warm or to cool. He has also simplified the illusory space in the paintings - preferring to concentrate on a relatively narrow depth of field; and compositionally some of the mark-making concentrates the eye on and just below the surface.
Despite an apparent simplicity, paradoxically, these works reintroduce a considerable degree of visual complexity. Strong vertical strokes have been used as a kind of intuitive geometry to divide the picture plane, creating a sense of pace and rhythm. In some, irregular discs of translucent pale glazes catch the eye and keep it on the move, whilst in others, the illusory ripples create movement but also serve to compress the space. These simple repeated compositional motifs, applied in layers, give the paintings an optical resonance that, on first viewing, can cause the eye to skim across the surface, constantly having to re-focus; a kind of implied movement occurs. Yet in contradiction, these paintings encourage immersive scrutiny – to be within the painting.
I am reminded of a quote by the painter Ian McKeever where he talks of “The meeting point of the world out there and in here, what is the edge that separates me ?” Time spent with Simon Averill’s paintings provide us, the viewer, with a platform to ponder this question. Mark Rothko once said that “Art is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.” The inherent balance within these works provide us with both states - a space where we can meditate on and come to terms with the ephemeral of that which we witness and that which we are – at the core of their intricacy is a moment of oneness and understanding – a contemplative place of external and internal enlightenment.
Joseph Clarke. 2011
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Simon Averill is a British artist born in Brighton, England in 1961. He currently lives and works near Marazion in West Cornwall.
Simon Averill's paintings are informed and motivated by his response to light and a compulsion to record the fleeting and transitory effects of light on his immediate surroundings. The experience of being in a certain place will mark itself indelibly on Averill’s conscious – resulting in a methodical and repetitive series of motifs, which describe the intangible effects of light in varying degrees of diffraction, reflection and distortion.
Averill studied Fine Art at Brighton Polytechnic and graduated with Honours. In 1986 he established a Printmaking Workshop near Penzance, Cornwall, which he ran until 1990. Since 1989 he has lectured at Falmouth University, where he is now a senior lecturer, specialising in painting and drawing. He has been a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists since the late 1980s.
Averill has exhibited widely with exhibitions in the UK, Europe and USA including the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Show, The Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries, Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, Sherborne House, Plymouth Museum, Plymouth Arts Centre, Truro Museum, Falmouth Art Gallery, Newlyn Art Gallery and the Festival Hall in Chicago, USA. Simon Averill is represented by Anima-Mundi.