Beatrice Royal Contemporaty Art, Eastleigh
A graduate of Goldsmiths College, Alan Rankle clearly shares with his peers a need to bring art out into the public domain and to shock. But his desire to provoke a response is allied to genuine mastery of painting methods. His best work relies on the juxtaposition of traditional styles of landscape painting with emotionally charged abstract disruptions, the whole creating an eerie synthesis that confronts the viewer with an uneasy awareness of nature in a post-industrial world.
Following the opening of his exhibition at the Beatrice Royal, I traveled along the coast to visit the artist at his studio in St Leonard’s, to find out more about his art and attitudes. When asked what changes the recent upsurge of interest in his work had brought about, he says, its good to feel there’s a connection between doing what want to do and earning a living, I’m beginning to relax into it and hope my work improves alongside that.’
Until the crash of the early Nineties, Rankle had regular commissions from companies such as Sun Alliance, which funded his more experimental work. Ironically, he began to concentrate on his career as a painter in the middle to an economic crisis. A theme of his current exhibition is the meeting of urban and rural Landscape this is exemplified by Journey of The City To The Sea. a 7ft square, hallucinogenic coil vision between Titian and the Northern Expressionists. Its optical depth and hand-dragged glazes give the work luminosity, interrupted by great swathes of paint which look almost accidental, yet create a stunning and very believable vista.
The painting evokes the past within the more turbulent images to the present. “If you look at a pond or a river, you might see Turner or Constable, but you also see beer cans, detritus. Looking at a sunset, one now has a sense of the underlying anxiety that pervades today’s environment.”
Another series, Further Tales From The Beach House, interprets the language of sketches, which Rankle sees as a dialogue between artists throughout the ages. The focal painting of this group. Cliff Walk, is another juxtaposition of different skills. Conceptually, delicate sepia sketch, but in practice a large scale work on a brilliant gold teat background. “In today’s image-saturated world, a sepia drawing needs more than a three minute attention span. Painting now needs to compete with electronic media on its own terms.” Painted in oils and verdigris on metal, this is a stunning and unique style of painting.
Rankle’s paintings seem to evoke the sensuality and violence of nature as well as its fragility in the modem world. I asked him how he came to work in such a way. I want to make the actual painting as real as anything else around, not just a window to fantasy. I try to bring the onus back onto the viewer to be more aware of their environment.” Rankle’s idea is to expand the emotional range of the paintings to show that nature is as much the electronic gale howling through your TV screen as it is the idyllic view of a ‘natural sunset’, This notion is influenced by Rankle’s study of Taoism and Zen. For him, landscape art acknowledges the reality of the connection between man and nature.
His work is at the forefront of a new wave of English landscape art - energetic, relevant and well worth viewing.