Wendy Sutherland's distinctive vision of landscape is observed mostly in the north-east Highlands of Scotland, extending also into the Western Isles. It is a vision which, growing in depth and range over the last fifteen years, confirms her standing as a major and urgent new voice in Scottish art today.
As a painter in a time and place, Wendy Sutherland happily acknowledges a debt to certain traditions among her near contemporaries and forebears. Beyond these, some intriguing affinities suggest themselves with work by exponents of the romantic tradition in American painting, as it found a late expression in the work of Georgia O’Keeffe or Augustus Vincent Tack with their mystical apprehension of a primeval nature related closely to specific sites.
While in their texture and surface qualities Sutherland’s works may edge towards the abstraction of a painter such as Rothko, there is never a doubt about her commitment to a sense of place. Chiefly from this source comes the energy which springs out of her compositions. Far from inducing a mood of meditation, her paintings encourage the viewer to stride out in the artist’s company towards an inviting horizon. Sutherland joins hands here with a visionary painter such as Caspar David Friedrich who reached out for the ‘sublime’, glimpsed from the crest of the Harz mountains or on the bleak shores of the Baltic. Perhaps ultimately this pursuit of an atmospheric and painterly dream, grounded in the observation of a familiar landscape, goes back to the mysterious backgrounds of Giorgione.
Celebrating through her paintings the dominating physical environment so formative in her upbringing, Wendy Sutherland identifies not only with the play of the elements which she experiences and embraces on her long walks but, more deeply, with the primal energy which formed these Jurassic hills. Here, typically, the near and far may fuse, a sea mist clears to expose a landscape where peat bog and bracken replicate wave patterns of the sea, while in the distance a narrow pathway beckons. In her broad approach, Sutherland gives weight also to a sense of unseen dimensions in her surroundings.
To do justice to such powerful subjects, conceived on daily (and occasionally nightly) rambles with sketchbook in hand, Sutherland works first at considerable speed. Sometimes (like Pollock) she lets paint and pigment fly on to her canvases laid flat on the studio floor, or introduces shellac which can cause her fluent imagery to run and coalesce in new, surprising patterns. At other times she renders her subjects with great delicacy in finely superimposed detail. In her growing consciousness of being grounded more firmly in landscape she knows so well, Sutherland has come to see the creative process in which she is involved as a cumulative response to the environment which may well encompass recollections of past experiences or intimations of earlier ages.
Wendy Sutherland was born in Brora, East Sutherland, in 1975. In 1997 she graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with First Class Honours, becoming a Master of Fine Arts two years later. Since 1998, she has held eight one-person exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Canada, including art.tm, Inverness (2000), Transit Gallery, Hamilton, Canada (2001), Artifex Gallery, Birmingham (2001), and Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland (2005). Over this period she has also participated in some 35 group exhibitions, including Collective Gallery, Edinburgh (1997), Highlands and Islands Open (1998), Atkinson Gallery, Somerset (1998), McLellan Galleries, Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art (1999), Timespan, Helmsdale (2004) and Stenton Gallery, East Lothian (1999-2005).
Wendy Sutherland is the recipient of some ten art awards including Queens Anniversary Award (1995/96), The Royal Scottish Academy Landscape Award (1998), a Highland Open Judge’s Commendation (1998), a Highlands and Islands Arts, Scottish Arts Council Award to Artists (2001) and the Highland Open Convenor’s Prize (2004). Since 1999, Sutherland has undertaken public commissions for four venues, including Edinburgh International Conference Centre (1999) and UHI Millennium Institute (2005). Now based once more in the village in east Sutherland where she was born, Wendy Sutherland has for some time identified as her primary goal an evolving interpretation of the landscape of the Scottish Highlands through a range of media and in this chosen field is already considered a leading figure. In March 2008 the artist was profiled in the Landward programme on BBC Television Scotland. She was selecto'rs choice for the annual Discerning Eye exhibition in 2012, where her work was runner-up. Wendy Sutherland has had one-person exhibitions with Francis Kyle Gallery in 2007, 2009 and 2012 and participated in the Gallery's theme exhibition Jumping for Joyce in 2013.
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