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Art is in the Air

15 April 2019

The brand new Painters Outdoors: Plein Air in the North exhibition opened to the public at Hartlepool Art Gallery on the 23rd of March and runs until the 25th of May 2019. It showcases a number of pieces of contemporary artwork created directly from nature, ‘en plein air’ – the French expression for ‘in the open air’.

This dynamic, fluid style of painting is completed in the landscape it seeks to depict over one or two sessions, in which the artist aims to capture a scene through visual judgements of forms, space, colour and light. The resulting paintings are often visually exciting and express rapid and lyrical brushwork.

Plein air painting is an artistic practice that goes back centuries, gaining perhaps greatest significance in the late 1700s. British artists of great repute, such as John Constable and JMW Turner, would create watercolour and oil sketches ‘painted on the spot’ – primarily using these studies to then produce much larger studio work that would go on to be exhibited in galleries around the world.

Curator of the exhibition (and North East plein air artist) Stuart Jones, has hand-selected a number of historical works from Tees Valley Museums’ collections to feature in the display. Which is set to include work from the from the Staithes Group (1894-1909), such as Hartlepool’s very own John William Howey (1873-1938).

‘I am extremely grateful to Tees Valley Museums who have contributed works to the exhibition by members of the Staithes Group, as it reveals the legacy of painters that have found the Northern Landscape and Yorkshire Coast to be an endless source for artistic expression, showing all aspects of beauty, drama life and atmosphere,’ Stuart explains. ‘The exhibition also showcases some of the greatest and most influential plein air painters working today, including Royal Institute of Oil Painters David Curtis, Haidee-Jo Summers and Andrew Farmer.

‘I urge everyone to visit, so that tehy can appeciate the quality and talent in painting that is on display in such a lovely venue. It really is something special.’

As well as featuring historical plein air paintings, the exhibition also brings together the work of six contemporary artists, some of whom are local to the Tees Valley area. As well as the three already mentioned Stuart himself will be displaying his own work alongside Susanna Heath and Chris Slater. Many of the artists featured in the exhibition have painted familiar scenes from the Tees Valley area, exploring the beauty the natural world embodies. Many of the contemporary artists’ works will be for sale.

‘We are delighted to be displating Painters Outdoors here at Hartlepool Art Gallery and hope it has the power to make people stop what they are doing, look arounds and really appreciate the beauty right here on our doorstep, which so often gets lost in the chaos of life,’ says Ashley Landsbury, Museum and Art Gallery Manager. ‘I also hope people get inspired to pick up a paintbrush after visiting this captivating exhibition.’

This exhibition has been funded by Arts Council England