JJ Ignatius Brennan and Rob Colclough

10 Jan 2012 in Shetland, Showcase, Visual Arts & Crafts

Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick, Shetland, until 5 February 2012

DRAWING can take many forms, and indeed the description covers everything from charcoal and pencil to watercolour, ink, and gouache.

THE new exhibition at Da Gadderie shows the work of two artists for whom drawing is important. At first glance it might seem to be two quite individual shows, and both have separate titles – Auto Portraits by JJ Ignatius Brennan and Traces, Elements, Atmosphere by Rob Colclough. Both artists live and work on the island of Yell in Shetland. However once you look a bit closer that emphasis on drawing becomes quite evident.

Boats by Rob Colclough

Boats by Rob Colclough

JJ Ignatius Brennan’s works on paper take quick drawings from observation and interprets these in a hitherto unused (to my knowledge) medium, that of lines of glue from a glue gun. These dribbled and textured marks and lines form into impressions of traffic, driving in France, driving in London and traffic in bad weather driving in Shetland. The spontaneous quality of the original drawings must clearly define the freedom inherent in the finished work. He sketches from moving traffic, cars, buses and coaches and then, back in the studio, realises these on a larger scale with a hot glue gun. The subsequent marks are not, as you’d expect, translucent, but involve colour – blue, gold, silver, but mostly black.

Within this narrow field of expression lies a dynamic freedom at once controlled and gestural. Frequently the Shetland-based work has another layer of diagonal strokes suggesting rain or sleet. The images are uncluttered, totally linear, often closer to those minimalist drawings of Matisse, but the subject matter is more mundane: cars, lorries and so on. It’s closer as well to that linear quality found in stained glass, but lacks that medium’s characteristic tone and colour, something I began to miss as I looked around, wishing for just a little colour to flesh out the drawing.

J J Ignatius Brennan - Driving  in Shetland

J J Ignatius Brennan - Driving in Shetland

Both JJ Ignatius Brennan and Rob Colclough are members of Veer North, the group of artists which is based in Shetland, and Shetland forms the theme for the rest of this show. Rob Colclough’s paintings take a far more traditional approach with an impressive collection of watercolours and oils. His subjects include landscapes, boats, flowers, and most of the work includes a depiction of water. How could it be otherwise living on an island like Yell? I enjoyed the different techniques in the watercolours, especially where the medium is given freedom to work. However, there is as strong a linear structure here, as there is with JJ’s work, in the underlying drawing.

Back of Burravoe has a network of lines in the foreground cliffs contrasting with the bare horizontals in the background sea and sky; these are then fleshed out with ‘wet in wet’ watercolour washes creating something quite fresh and spontaneous. The flower paintings are treated in a similar but sensitive way, Geraniums being for me the best and boldest. This underlying drawing is seen at work in the boat paintings, especially in the Scalloway Boat Scene, which is full of recognisable details subtly rendered.

Rob Colclough - Colours of Winter

Rob Colclough - Colours of Winter

Rob’s larger paintings are in oil and give an impression of the scale and depth of the landscape of Shetland. The handling of the paint is confident and the choice of colour sensitive to the subject matter. Colours of Winter is as cold as you’ll ever see – blues and greys with just a suggestion of warm pink, but not enough to take the chill off. It’s nicely balanced too with dark areas at opposite corners of the rectangle.

Last Days of the Season has a movement to it which suggests a windy day in all that turbulent sky, although I’m not convinced by the unmodulated turquoise lochs. The two oils that work best for me are Abandoned in which the paint is less thick, more scumbled and much freer with just an element of abstraction. Evening along the Peat Road has a loneliness about it, the barren landscape where colour is mostly drained from the ground and the predominance of blue infects all the other colours. The peat road is a linear streak of white heading off into an uncertain horizon; great stuff!

© Peter Davis, 2012