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Quercus Robur

Geoff Uglow is a painter who grew up in Cornwall and attended Falmouth School of Art before moving to Glasgow. Here he describes the inspiration for his latest series of paintings.




My love of the British landscape came before painting. Painting is merely the medium I have used to develop a relationship with it.

I have always been drawn to images that have a timeless quality, like something ancient. The Common Oak is a symbol whose identity is deeply embedded in British history as well as my own. As a child the world that I lived in was farming. Working the land was what I knew. Within this world of labour and resistance men faded back into the soil they once turned. The seasons carried the workers forward.

All this endeavour exists like memory in the mind and is then lost. My efforts at least are marked temporarily by the painting being fixed within a frame. I see the field as a working painting; both continue to evolve and grow through time.

It was not only the universal image of the single tree which grasped me it was the presence and feeling of the tree itself. The motif seemed to contain a metaphysical quality; it began as a tree and became as real as looking someone in the face. The oak opened up posing more questions than answers. Something which begins as a humble simple thing became vast and complex. No longer just a landscape painting, it became more of a portrait, a presence and object in space.

I can walk around it, climb it, lie under it and kill it. The fact it is alive only adds to its mystery. It is a contained system, each part fed by a hidden root. The neck like our own connects the body to the head, a shivering nervous system. It sheds its toxic leaves to reveal the bones. The paint turns from liquid to solid, forms a skin and slowly dries like a land or body losing moisture. Paint and image are inseparable, drying like tracks drawn through a mud soaked gate way as if to emphasise the momentary quality of the gesture and feeling.

For ‘Quercus Robur’ each work has been titled after the name of a poet. I have always felt that poetry and painting are one and part of each other. Although the mediums are different, words within the poem are like looking at strokes in a painting. Often one reading can have impact but it is the re-reading which reveals the complete character of the work. The oak, a symbol of longevity and the living present, sits well against the eternal and fleeting words of poets. Each work becomes an epitaph to the poet and a conversation with their words, a link to the past that is made in the present.




Quercus Robur is at Connaught Brown, London 1/5/13 - 1/6/13