Experiments enliven the landscape

Barrie Houghton - Mixed Media Paintings is at The John Russell Gallery, 4-6 Wherry Lane, Ipswich until November 22.Barrie Houghton's semi- abstract landscape paintings, inspired by his travels abroad and East Anglia, create atmosphere through their soft, selective palette and Houghton's free and experimental technique during their creation.

Barrie Houghton - Mixed Media Paintings is at The John Russell Gallery, 4-6 Wherry Lane, Ipswich until November 22.

Barrie Houghton's semi- abstract landscape paintings, inspired by his travels abroad and East Anglia, create atmosphere through their soft, selective palette and Houghton's free and experimental technique during their creation. The mixed media works use heavily absorbent paper, which is drenched in free-flowing watercolour; allowed to bleed and merge at its own will in a series of broad washes. The images are then over-painted, mopped and scrubbed until the desired effect is achieved.

In Late Walk, watercolour, and Sheep, mixed media on paper, the softness of the paint, and the blurring of form, is reminiscent of a soft focus lens, or a half memory which can't be recalled in full clarity. These, like the acrylic paintings May Dawn and Rose Stack, are gently lit, harmonious, and have a sense of spontaneity, and intrinsic drama.

Houghton multi-layers his acrylics too, sensitively using his brushes, to again blend colour; frequently giving the works an almost unearthly, heavenly, glow.


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This show, Houghton's fifth solo at the gallery, also features figurative works and portraits. Family, acrylic on canvas, and Chorus, mixed media, use loose form to depict movement. In Family the figures garbs, like vintage night shirts, and the thin flowing use of paint reminds one of happy phantoms or ghosts.

Balloons of colour float above their heads adding a sense of celebration. Houghton's portraits, notably Waterboy, and Waiting Room, are remarkably composed; zooming in on particular features, or areas of a face, or positioning the figure in a manner that expresses discomfort. His understanding of body language is subtle and sophisticated. The use of colour is quite fauvist; accentuating features and skin tone by painting them imaginatively rather than literally. Interestingly, the results are characterfully revealing and at times quite disturbing.

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Barrie Houghton trained at St Martin's School of Art, and has had success both in solo and mixed shows. He is a serious artist, who is not afraid to experiment. This is a fascinating and challenging show.

Sonia Carvill

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