Graham Sutherland: Exultant Strangeness

Graham Sutherland, Western Hills, 1938-41 (courtesy of Abbot Hall Art Gallery)
Graham Sutherland, Western Hills, 1938-41 (courtesy of Abbot Hall Art Gallery)

Robin Blake reviews the exhibition Exultant Strangeness: Graham Sutherland Landscapes at Abbott Hall Gallery, UK, September 18, 2013.

Blake writes: "Sutherland’s working method in landscape was to seize on a detail such as a boulder, a dead tree, hedges enclosing a lane or some other natural form he came across. He would sketch this on the spot, and later a studio painting would evolve. Many landscape artists before him had done much the same – not least Constable and Turner – but Sutherland’s studio hand moved considerably further from what his outdoor eye had seen. He called this 'paraphrasing' nature – a word that unintentionally reflects his weakness as a painter. To paraphrase is at best a secondary activity; at worst it results in a mash-up in which obscurity of meaning fights with literalism, or descends into pretentiousness or neurosis... Sutherland was a pioneer of what might be called natural abstraction, a mode that hardly existed before him, but which has since developed in a variety of directions – the land art of Richard Long, for example, and the abstractions of painters such as Per Kirkeby or Ian McKeever."