Woodland Tree 11 Lesley Slight Without realising it Lesley Slight has become known as one of an elite group of painters known as the Arborealists, thanks to their obsession with painting trees. She was also recently chosen as one of the 'Present' painters in a 2 part exhibition where the 'Past' was studded with such exalted company as Turner, Samuel Palmer, the Nash Brothers and Graham Sutherland.
All this delights and surprises the Bridport artist who is busy working for her new solo show, Land and Sea, which opens at the Art Stable on November 8. But the real difference with Lesley Slight - and for me it's an astounding one - is that her landscapes are drawn entirely from her imagination. No sketchbook, no photo to jog her memory, just a paint-daubed brush in the studio and a few strokes which over time emerge into the detailed visions you can see here. None of her paintings are of real places, though she lives in a very remote rural setting outside Bridport and continues to be inspired by her local Dorset land and seascapes. "This landscape, with its sea cliffs, secret valleys, old woods and rounded hills, is the focus and catalyst for everything that I do and is absolutely central to my painting. It has an ancient and primordial being, and a timeless quality not quite of this century – so much of it seems relatively untouched by developments evident elsewhere. " Lesley begins with a blank canvas and a sense of atmosphere but no idea of what will come. Order happens gradually through her focus on light, colour and form. The result is mesmerising, paintings that remind one of myths or dreams and are a direct line into the artist's interior world. In the flesh these works are literally entrancing, it is like seeing the mind's eye. Pictured below: Late Light I ask Lesley about the process of painting, if it becomes compulsive once the idea takes begins to take form. 'My major interests are light and atmosphere and that's what I start out with. I make marks on a canvas and keep moving the whole thing along and eventually something I haven't planned starts to emerge.' Often the unplanned paintings become trees seen in exquisite detail - "I just adore trees. Years ago I used to go into woods with sketchbooks and spend hours drawing trees and I suppose they are in my subconscious somewhere.' Her paintings are vibrant, uplifting, transporting but there's also an unmistakeable air of melancholy; with her use of sombre, dark colour and suppressed light, they contain a sense of foreboding at times. This is how the artist conveys her deep concern about the fragility of nature. To me, Vermillion Tree 11, seen here above, carries an eery, almost apocalyptic feel. "I do feel very much that we are, not too slowly, destroying the natural world right across the globe. We are getting rid of things that we cannot replace and it worries me and I think that there is often a sense of that in my painting.' Yellow Hills by Lesley Slight Lesley Slight opens at the Art Stable in Child Okeford Nov 8-Dec 9 She will also be part of The Arborealists show at Bristol's Royal West of England Academy which opens December 14.