Lesley Slight paintings
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On Land and Sea, an exhibition by Lesley Slight at The Art Stable

Much has been said about Slight’s reinvention of the Dorset landscape: she knows her subject extremely well because she transforms it with such insight and clarity.

Slight’s paintings tell us that she loves remoteness and the countryside; she is fascinated by the far horizon and takes us there by unravelling the valleys, hills, bushes, spinneys, the unfashionably small fields and fat hedges, from beneath our feet. We are led on the whim or an ancient path pinned here and there by a brave, single tree. Is that dance of light or canopy of leaves a signal to rest, the city equivalent of a street lamp or covered doorway? Or is it a warning, - have you stumbled into an unfinished story, a haunted world you don’t quite recognise? Were you meandering, relaxed in your day-dreaming, or were you already on the run….

Her uncompromising use of opposites; wilderness as sanctuary or menace, the calm with disquiet, the chance-like sitting comfortably with the more contrived, the burst of light and plunging darkness have all seduced us. We will have to think more about what we feel when we are out in nature. She gives us no choice because you can never look at Slight’s work and be totally at ease. The sharp line of the sea on the horizon can cut towards the land then stop, strangely mollified by the lightness of her brush, the soft light, the unearthly silence. The skies are never completely clear in Slight’s work.

Ten small canvases, 18x24 cm, each a single tree unmistakably of this isle. Close up these trees shimmer, breathe, whisper in your ear. Hundreds of leaves defined by the touch of her brush…. Then magically she pushes you back and asks you to reconsider from a distance. Let the tree shout from over there, hold forth from the root with a creak or a groan. This multiple centenarian will be heard! Light and dark, close and far,  pushing  us to know more and to pay tribute to all its glorious contradictions.

In the painting Land and Sea the glimpsed path leads us to where the stage is set. You can’t help wondering if you are the first or last to tread there, or if the last was a creature we wouldn’t recognise. Where the light falls and stretches most generously, is Slight saying we must stop, take time to reassess?  And more than that; for the first time I see her and her experiences and I want to hear what she is saying.
For me this is a new dimension in Slight’s work. She’s letting us get closer. She speaks of memory and of people, as well as confronting the future of our world and our place in it. I see joy, sorrow, peace, confusion, fear, melancholy. In her love of landscape I see love of people and her empathy and honour for those, lovers perhaps, who may have passed this way and, from this world, passed on to another. Island and Sea  tells us that she’s seen other worlds in this one and the light at the top winning through hovers, benevolent and reaching impossibly far across the sea, bird spirit or spirit-like.

So new perspectives abound – in  Inlet  and Woodland Path  she’s changed seat. We are looking across or up and again have to take stock. In Lost  we have to ask how and who - the title and abstract qualities are so different from all the rest – I can’t wait to see where this exceptional painter will lead us next!

Gigi Sudbury - November 2014

I was deeply moved by your work, and I can truly say that it was the best exhibition I have seen for a long time. It seems to me that so much contemporary work I look at these days is so self conscious, desperately trying to say something and in that very endeavour looses its self.

In retrospect, your paintings each felt as if they contained a new beginning, despite being seemingly wrapped in historic reference - Palmer, Hardy and the landscapes, clearly Dorset, but as an archetype, as your trees are also an English archetypal tree, in which to tantalise us with another life force waiting to metamorphose. We don't quite know what it is, except that we feel its presence. In all the paintings (I think all) the presence that I'm referring to, is defined by an unusual 'light' — the birth of a mountainous island, floating above the sea or the point of focus in the landscapes is an ethereal light about to give 'birth' and the strange coloured light shrouding each tree.

I have been thinking about liminality for a while, a threshold where transition happens, but there always seems to be a tether to the 'known', our historic influences, the things that inform who we are. (We are all different, which offers such exciting diversity). I was trying to explain the relevance to Hugh's 'Constellation of Influence', being a fluid arrangement of influential references and when one pays homage to and works (not necessarily consciously) in gratitude, it seems to 'unlock' pathways to the subconscious. I believe that your work represents this process and touches that spot where something special is happening, but we are never quite sure what it is. They possess their own life and they touch our soul's.

Guy Martin

….. none of Lesley Slight's paintings are of 'real' places. Though she draws from observation in the landscape, her paintings are made exclusively in the studio from 'a mixture of memory and invention, forming imagined constructs'.

Slight's process is intuitive, organic, each new canvas evolving from a series of what she describes as 'inchoate abstractions', formed from an initial application of 'a chaos of painterly smudges, strokes and wipes pushed around on the surface'. Order gradually emerges from her manipulation of paint, colour and tone, forming a recognisable entity, one with dimension, scale and form.

Central to the artist's concerns is an exploration of light, and there is a notable dramatic chiaroscuro in her work. Slight states that she is 'very aware of the "darker" side of our involvement in the natural world', and there is a sense in her painting both of nature's benign magnificence and foreboding.

Her "Maurice Butterworth's Oak" is a portrait of a tree in efflorescence, an ancestral mutation of that in Samuel Palmer's In a Shoreham Garden (c1830, collection Victoria and Albert Museum)

Ian Massey "Nature Describing Nature. Under The Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree 2013"

The landscape of west Dorset is the visual foundation of Lesley Slight's painting. Her work grows from meticulous observations, her complete emersion in the place she paints. But these are invented landscapes, incorporating real and imagined elements; visions from knowledge, experience, imaginings, memory.
Distinct areas of colour or shadow belie the complex compositions; rhythm and pattern guide the eye unfalteringly and the result, even when the painting is small, is always monumental. In general she uses a low colour key, holding something back for the shift or burst of light, light which orchestrates the narrative. Light touches a hillside, a furrow, the crest of a wave, a bush, a leaf – a fleeting moment, but here minutes and seconds explode, because this is a moment you will not forget.

But a beautiful moment often holds its nemesis. The shadows in these paintings can be ominous, like a warning that our past endeavours to control dictate an uncertain future.
Slight paints intuitively and so suggests that mastery of anything does not lie in control. She describes the calm but also the brewing storm.

Like flesh, these paintings have a pulse, ignore it at your peril.
Slight's paintings are thoughtful, subtle and powerful and achingly poignant. I am thinking about a small painting of a tree in leaf; it speaks clearly in the fading light, immutable, defiant and full of heart. Lesley Slight's interior world is as real as the place that she paints.

Gigi Sudbury May 2011.

I find Lesley Slight's paintings mesmerising. They take me right into the spirit of that place,
and how I dream and think of it sometimes..."

Hattie Ellis Author "Trading Places", "Eating England", "Sweetness and Light"

" Lesley Slight paints the Dorset landscape where she lives and works.
Her paintings build up a panoramic vision of the country around her home
— its hills, fields, sky and woodland. Slight patiently explores the vastness of the surrounding world,
discovering many different worlds in a single view
— sunrise...liquid mists roll across the fields.. .sunset,
and the dark smudges of trees and hedgerows bar the land. The colours are vivid and luxuriant,
but the final effect is impressionistic and elusive."

Edward Platt Journalist and author "Leadville"


OnLine Magazine: countrycalling

Gallery: The Art Stable


copyright: All images © Lesley Slight 2022. All rights reserved