Reviews

Duncan Bullen, Academic Programme Leader, Fine Art, University of Brighton Faculty of Art 

Tania Rutland is an artist working within the western tradition of landscape Painting. According to the late Kenneth Clark, landscape painting was 'the dominant art', of the nineteen century. However, in an age of ecological awareness and post-modern pluralism, where a multitude of artistic practices, subjects and concerns exists, we may ask what it might mean for an artist to engage with this tradition in the early part of the 21st Century?

Tania's paintings, prints and drawings provide no easy answer to such a question, but they do speak of a continuing fascination that this particular genre holds for artists. For Tania, it is not an idealized picturesque or a pastoral view of landscape that interests her, nor is it that other great western idea of the beautiful and sublime, with its capacity to inspire awe, wonder or reverence, but rather it is what she refers to as a 'humanized countryside', that concerns her. It is the patterns and repetitions of tracks and paths that cut through a field, delineated for a transitory moment in time, something overlooked or forgotten that Tania is attracted to and wants to capture paint on canvas.

For any one who has ever picked up a pencil or paintbrush and tried to create a picture of the scene before their eyes, they immediately encounter the difficulty of transcribing or representing what they actually see. For what we call representational is no more or no less than an abstraction of the actuality. It may be better, therefore, in Tania's art, to speak of a re-presentation, rather than a representation. For this term seems to account for the ambiguity of vision, of being in the world and takes account of the flux and flow of a landscape in constant change and our bodies moving through it, rather than a fixed view point found in theories and practice of perspective. Tania's paintings attempt to convey some of this ambiguity between re-presentation and abstraction where, seeing is merged with memory and one place with another.

Looking at one of Tania's paintings one is also drawn to the surface, the glide and scumble of the application of paint that produce layer upon layer of glazes of muted colour. Stepping back, these thin washes of colour  merge upon the eye giving depth and lightness to the overall composition. thinking and planing a painting in this way is for Tania a crucial part of the making process, and recalls her initial training in printmaking with its characteristics step-by-step methodologies and techniques. 

So each of Tania's paintings undergoes a careful construction, from the selecting and composing of imagery through preparatory drawings, to the appliance of paint. this initial preparation grants a familiarity with the imagery and allows Tania to work on several paintings at any one time. here a more fluid and intuitive approach can flourish and ideas and imagery can move freely from canvas to canvas. Therefore, these painted landscapes are as much a construct as the landscape from which they are derived. In an age dominated by quick fix solutions, Tania's art offers us time to reflect upon our world and our place within it.

Brian Curtin, Writer Contemporary Art, Flash Art and Frieze and other publications 

Tania Rutland’s paintings engage in the way great painting typically does. Her paintings bring us back and forth from the detail to the whole in a careful and slowly unfolding manner. Rutland understands what it means to create the type of world that painting at its best can offer, insisting on our deliberation and resisting, if not challenging, any easy or strict category of understanding. All the while we are kept looking, thinking and questioning.


Most immediately, the paintings suggest a modernist order of contained, repetitive and seemingly self-referential lines and markings. On consideration, however, we recognize this order as tempered by a sense of the organic, suggestions of space deeper than initially perceived and complex personal engagements with theoretical and lived understandings of feminine experience. Rutland brings different poles of perception into close proximity. Questions of abstraction, the referential and the representational move across her intricately worked surfaces.

The artist’s most recent source material is well-worn rags. She has spoken about her late mother’s work as a seamstress, the registration of the labourer’s being in the products of physical labour, and the fact of purportedly tedious repetition. These paintings build on her fundamental concern to translate aspects of her personal experience into an original visual language. At issue is an ambition to address a humanist understanding within the terms of that originality. Sometimes when looking at Rutland’s work we can sense a trace and touch of something more intimately real than the paint’s materiality. Other times we begin to decode the subtle symbolism and, yet other times, we recognize her paintings as operating on more complex and challenging levels.

Broadly influenced by the formalism of Robert Ryman, Prunella Clough’s capacity to distill essences and the rhythm and intimacy of James Hugonin, the autobiographical language of Louise Bourgeois is also pertinent. Rutland ultimately brings these influences forward to offer a great spin on recent developments in painting: she has no fear of pursuing traditional notions of beauty and she responds in an exceptionally significant manner to paint as a material as well as a medium.