For nearly 35 years English artist Tony Foster has worked in the World’s wildernesses - mountains and canyons, rainforests and deserts, the Arctic and the Tropics.
Travelling slowly - on foot or by canoe or raft, and carrying his painting and camping equipment he makes his paintings in response to what he finds on his journeys.
He does not use photography or sketches but makes his paintings on site, often in the most difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. Sometimes a large-scale work (up to 7 feet by 4 feet!) will take more than two weeks on site before it is sufficiently resolved to roll into its aluminium tube to be completed in his studio in Cornwall.
The paintings are not simply landscapes - by their inclusion of written notes and symbolic objects they record his observations and experiences during his time in the wilderness.
This body of work explores the object-quality of books and my long-time interest in the interplay of text and image. In some of these artworks, I’ve referenced my fascination with incunabula, those ancient manuscripts with mysterious content and undecipherable script upon their worn pages. Palimpsests too are part of the aesthetic associations and also the development the work. As the imagery progresses, surface additions and subtractions contribute layers where vestiges of earlier aspects are left deliberately visible. This stratum involves additions of text, asemic scrawls, pairings of realism and abstraction, and diagrammatic drawings with some aspects seen only with close inspection. These many layers of imagery offer a broad system of visual and symbolic information to engage different routes of information gathering and the construction of meaning.
On this theme, the exhibition with its collection of book-related artwork creates the atmosphere of an athenaeum. In Greek culture, this signified a reading room or library, a place where poets read, where science was researched, and the arts and literature considered. Since my artwork often begins with reading, research, and the relationships between art and science, and with poetry being a contemplative source, an athenaeum seems a fitting association for this show and also an invitation for you to enter.
Certain places and circumstances exert an undeniable impulse to make art inspired by them in order to understand what they might mean. My paintings are inspired by the experiences of sustained reflection upon the Aven River in Pont Aven, France, the Pacific Ocean near Bolinas, California and the snow and river in Ketchum, Idaho. I am awed by the beauty of light falling on water and snow. This visual phenomena is a perfect natural metaphor for the ever changing flux in which we make our lives. I love things one can only see for an instant; they shock us into contemplation, thought and change.
400 First Avenue North • P.O. Box 1679 Ketchum, ID 83340-1679
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