Gardner writes of her work: I strive to create ‘a place where it is possible to have a new adventure. A place, where no-one has trodden before. Where no-one else is. Utopia. A place which can be escaped to . A place which is soaked with the past and its people but somewhere they do not physically exist anymore. A magical place.’
To achieve this she uses her intuition about places and landscapes and the people who have, or have not been there, previously. She then combines this with the impact the place has had on her, her own thought processes, her memories, intuitions and what these awaken in her psyche. She may also include the impression or impact that other people tell her that the place has made on them. But whatever goes into the creative process, the starting point for Gardner is always the natural world, itself.
She will often visit a site several times as part of composing a piece, as well as working from photographs and sketches. Using oil on canvas she creates each piece, layer by layer, each layer affected by the emotions and feelings she has during the process of working the piece and the effect the subject matter itself, is having on her.
In Floods I, the dark distance and the complex muddied foreground are dominated by the optimism of the open blue skies which in turn are mirrored by the deep blues and turquoises that striate the piece. In The Blue Fields of Heaven, a complex inhabited foreground is given over to infinity of ethereal skies in blues and chalky whites, which fill the majority of the canvas. Both pictures speak of the opportunity for new adventure and escape , whilst firmly retaining their terrestrial origins.
You were so beautiful before today I, and You were so beautiful before today II, are in themselves very beautiful paintings. The former speaking of a cold winter-scape exploding with a joie de vivre, as expressed in the vertical paint work that gives the whole pieces a tremendous sense of optimism and hope. The latter carrying a strong feeling of the intensity of summer heat and wide open blue skies.
Gardner’s work is collected throughout Europe. And she has held a phenomenal ten shows over the past twenty-six months, in Oxford, London and other major centres. She lives and works in her home town of Witney. And it therefore feels appropriate that this latest show is in Witney. It is at the State of the Art Gallery (SOTA). The Gallery only exhibits work by Oxfordshire artists. And it is rapidly establishing a reputation for showing work that is both interesting and highly collectable.
This exhibition is small, but well worth visiting, providing as it does an opportunity to explore Gardner’s work in detail and to appreciate the pictures themselves and the sophistication of her unique approach to painting and her consummate mastery of techniques.
The exhibition is open daily and runs from 24th May to 9 th June.
Anne James (Arts Reviewer, Oxford Times)