Illusion & Abstraction

Capturing the Landscape

In 2020, indoor events all but ceased.  Shelter-in-place restrictions limited our movement and air travel ground to a halt as Bermuda closed its borders for the first time in its history in an effort to contain the growing spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Life was contained to 21 square miles, and a renewed focus on exploring places better known to our islands’ guests began.  The landscape, once taken for granted, took on new meaning and re-ignited our imagination.

Part of Bermuda National Gallery’s multi-year series exploring our place, our people, our stories and our future, this exhibition takes in both local and international artworks to look at the ways in which artists have both faithfully translated and refracted the landscape, from historical traditions rooted in realism to contemporary experimentations.

Examining our relationship with the natural world through three distinct lenses: realism, depth, and space; atmosphere, colour, and light; shape, form, and line, Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape, provides the opportunity to see how others experience our shared world and encourages us to consider other perspectives; and, perhaps, see the world anew ourselves. 

Curated by Mitchell Klink. The exhibition is supported by SolTerra Landscape and Design with education programming sponsored by AXIS.

March – November 2021

Realism, Depth & Space

Beginning with some of the historic artworks in the gallery’s permanent collection through to contemporary artists working in Bermuda today, Realism, Depth & Space grounds us in realist landscape traditions and looks at how artists across time have carefully observed and meticulously translated the natural world around them.

Rooted in detail, the artworks here celebrate the wonder of nature.  Depth and space are majestically captured in both Richard Wilson’s, Classical Landscape with Diana and Actaeon (1706), in which the retelling of the legend, captured in the foreground, is eclipsed by the immensity of the surrounding landscape and, Hamilton Harbour, by Mary Parker West (1876), in which the artist brings her classical British landscape training to Bermuda.  

Reflecting today’s local landscape, manicured and meticulously maintained, is contemporary artist Jason Bereswill’s painting of a property in Grape Bay (2019).  The immaculate lawn is clearly the result of human intervention; yet, the might isn’t in the landscaping—it is in the lush greenery and its inherent wildness.

Although each reflective of the period in which it was produced, the artworks in this section are united in their approach; thereby, allowing us to faithfully see the landscape as the artists saw it before them.

Atmosphere, Colour & Light

The unique light and eye-catching colours of Bermuda have drawn many artists to our island’s shores, from the turn of the 20thcentury onwards.  The artworks in Atmosphere, Colour & Light explore the effects of light and shade, depth and space, and experiment with colour and brushwork.  For the artists, here, the focus is not on depicting the details of the landscape before them, but in capturing its spirit.  

In The Rectory, Pembroke, Bermuda (1920) pioneering artist, Catherine F. Tucker, dedicates the body of the canvas to the abundance of flowers that surround the rectory, rather than to the building itself, elegantly evoking Bermuda’s laid back atmosphere and showcasing the island’s charm.

 Sheilagh Head’s use of bright colors and bold brushstrokes capture the vibrant light and dazzling intensity of a Bermuda garden under the midday sun, in Untitled (2012).  By contrast, in Adolf Triedler’s, Buttery at Springfield (1886), and Steven Masters,’ Sweet Perfumery (2020), the artists use a tonalist wash to paint—and leave un-painted in places—the lines, angles, and curves of Bermuda’s vernacular architecture.

 United in their evocation of atmosphere and light, the artworks in this section forego detail in order to impart a sense of memory and mystery.

Line, Shape & Form

In Line, Shape & Form the landscape is drilled down to a singular focus that captures the essence of a much-larger whole.  By experimenting with both techniques and mediums—cropping the composition, editing out detail and working within a limited colour palette—the artists here draw us in and encourage us to consider the world around us more closely.

In Antoine Hunt’s Roofline (2019), both the scale of the work and the crisp contrast lines create an architectural seriousness:  whilst the inversion of the customary black mark on a white background captures our attention.  Christina Hutchings’ Shadow Line (2014), though similarly limited in palette, draws the viewer in a different way by blending perceived depth with actual dimension.

Let’s Stick Together (2020), by Stratton Hatfield, is made directly from nature.  Whilst the composition evokes the variety and complexity of the untamed landscape, the forms are unmistakably man-made.  The use of solid materials is in direct contrast with both the abundance of the natural world and what is absent—color and context.

 By emphasizing the fundamental elements of line, shape, and form, the artists pull us in to share their focus and invite us to see the world from their point of view.  

Bermuda National Gallery virtual tour
Visit Illusion & Abstraction in our 360-degree Virtual Tour: