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  • In the Steps of Alcock and Brown


    In the Steps of Alcock and Brown by Kenneth Webb

    Oil on Canvas, 24" x 36" / 61cms x 91cms


    In his eternal endeavour to reveal a landscape’s spirit, Webb is drawn again and again to the peat bogs of Connemara, in the far west of Ireland. In few other places is that spirit so strongly felt, where the direct touch of man is light and the vista is (almost) entirely earth and sky and water. Where nature’s base elements are so raw and pure, so distinctly alive, it is easy to hear the landscape’s voice and feel its emotion. No wonder that some of Webb’s students, treated to a rare fine day in a little-known isolated spot in that vast wilderness, huddle together for comfort. Exposure to the primitive can be intimidating, even frightening, and stories of horror and the supernatural abound in such places. But Webb thrives in this land, more alive by far when ankle-deep in peat and heathers and windswept by the salt- laden Atlantic gales, than in manmade civilisation.


    The peat bog landscapes in this exhibition are proof of Webb’s success in unveiling that spirit, at least in part. He is convinced there remains more, much more, he has yet to be entrusted with. The distant mountains, presiding over the flat bogs and reflective pools, are kings of this land, but even they cannot rule the darkest depths of the pools.

    The play of reflective light across the still surface of those pools reveals, then obscures, and reveals again the rich life below. The beautiful colours of the lilypads and flowers that float above, studding the dark like jewelled offerings, are matched in the depths by trailing, swirling lily stems, and glowing algae and unidentified organisms in blues and greens and pinks.


    Raising your head from the fascinating theatre in the pools, there stretches ahead of you a geometry of angular lakes and raised rectangles of land between, contrasting against the sweeps and curves and peaks of the ancient untouched mountains in the near distance. Again, this dissimilitude draws Webb’s attention, but it is only when Nature reclaims her own that he is inspired to paint.


    The pools are caused by a long history of successive cuts of peat from the land, manmade quarries and hollows that slowly but surely are filled with water seeping in from below, and caught from above, and turned near-black with minerals. These human-cut scars soften and colour as Nature heals the land and touches it with beauty once more.




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