Exhibition discusses the value of art

These Valued Landscapes, Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery until October 25 When artists such as Thomas Gainsborough or John Constable attract prices that go with their reputation but it is easy to forget that, during the Georgian period, landscape painting was considered the lowest valued subject with none of the status of portraiture and still life.

These Valued Landscapes, Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery until October 25

When artists such as Thomas Gainsborough or John Constable attract prices that go with their reputation but it is easy to forget that, during the Georgian period, landscape painting was considered the lowest valued subject with none of the status of portraiture and still life. These Valued Landscapes gathers together work by seven contemporary artists and explores their interpretation of urban and rural landscapes, through paintings, photography, ceramics, sculpture and mixed media.

Taken using a 10x8” plate camera, Mark Edward's photographs, have an amazing clarity, with featureless skies in almost empty landscapes (including Padmolake Buddhist Retreat, Surlingham), whilst Idris Khan's overlaid photographs create intriguing, indistinct pictures. I preferred the wonderful impressionistic mix of Turners well-loved landscapes and portraits every…William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, to his grey gasholders (even though they are on loan from the Saatchi Gallery!).

As well as displaying Suffolk Pink (Drifter), painter Emily Cole, like most of the artists, comments upon environmental concerns. In Jetty (Sea Change) and Breakwaters, she mixes sump oil into oil and acrylic paints, to giving the vibrant colours an unusual translucency.


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Seeing the words of Fraser Harrisons essay, Who Own Nature, depicted in vinyl lettering along a floor board and up the gallery wall is surprisingly moving, but it is conceptual artist, James Ireland, who will attract questions of “is this really art” in the visitors book with work such as I Believe in Miracles, made from running water, rocks, a pump and a plastic pipe.

Video art is represented, with the sad and little known story of the 1864 dam-burst in Sheffield that claimed 300 lives, The Inundation by Katy Woods, a ten minute presentation of archive photographs and images, sound recordings and modern video footage.

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Six very different artists all interpreting “landscape”, but it is the seventh that would be easy to ignore before a closer look at Paul Scott's blue and white plates, reveal that he has subtly added political or social images, (a plane, a car or a power station), to the original artwork on ceramics by Royal Worchester and Spode. This is taken to the extreme in the broken pieces of Bombs Over Baghdad, a platter that shows figures going about their business whilst the city behind is invaded by US-led troops.

The Bury Gallery has once again brought together a thought-provoking and intelligent exhibition, aspects of which will both please and challenge art lovers in West Suffolk.

Rachel Sloane

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