Simon Edwards has always painted Canterbury landscapes. This exhibition of new work, Private Wilderness, continues Edwards’ exploration. Collectively these new paintings express a great deal about shifts of time, weather and mood within the landscape.
One of the most fascinating things about Edwards' painting is the manner in which he explores the sky and clouds. He does this with a musical attention to feeling and movement, and often with such an emphasis on the sky, that the land is dwarfed by it.
Whether the land is dry and brown, or wet and green, whether night is falling, or the sun is coming up, or it is raining - the sky is always emphatic in Edwards’ paintings. He blends land and sky, with only slight differentiation at times, to great poetic effect.
These paintings are a technically explicit rendition of what the artist has seen, and they are tinged with a carefully considered use of colour and tonal variation to achieve specific emotive responses. There is a sense of considered objectivity about these works, and this imbues them with serenity.
The paintings often appear to be slightly convex, due to the brightest part being at the centre. They have also developed an opulence due to the often passionate use of colour and the swirling quality of the clouds. The drama is never gratuitous, and is always measured as if the artist is saying “I’ve thought about it carefully, and I am happy to report that this land is indeed beautiful and interesting”. However, the convexity gained by brightening the centre subtly hints at entrapment – though this is artfully shaken off, changed, masked, or dealt with by the transformative power of paint.
Edwards’ opulent treatment of the Canterbury landscape, belies the ideas that many people hold about that area. New Zealanders traditionally find plains to be monotonous, but Edwards shows that if you shift your focus between the land and the sky, and change your view-point, then you will see incredible beauty and complexity. You will also find a template that can be adapted according to how you feel.