To Every Thing There is a Season
20–26 September 2021
Victoria Fletcher is a British artist who lives and works on the Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire border. Born in Suffolk, she studied at The University of Northumbria in Newcastle and after pursued a career in graphics, before setting up a studio at home. Working predominantly in oil on canvas, she is best known for dynamic landscapes painted en plein air, with spontaneous, impasto brushstrokes in vivid, seasonal colours. Interested in our human relationship with the landscape, in particular the interface of tending, planting and growing. Her still-lifes – potted flowers, or bowls of fruit cast in shadows or illuminated in shafts of light – embody an enthusiasm for and delight in natural forms, finding beauty in every living thing.
There is a painting in this show of a bucket of Dahlia’s, given to me by a friend. I remember painting it a heightened state of awe, urgently trying to capture the extraordinary saturation of colour and fullness of form that had burst forth from compact little buds. Having watched them grow and tilt their faces towards the sun, it seemed almost miraculous that they would bloom so vigorously. In painting them I became acutely aware of time, and that soon they would drop their heads to die. I wanted to somehow honour their brief but exquisite life, whilst also capturing the essence of that first, wild and unexpected encounter.
My memory is full of botanical and seasonal high notes like this, and you could say they are making a garden in my mind. They have taught me to watch out for new shoots, observe nature’s cycles, and let things have their time. In 2015, I went to the Chelsea Flower Show and saw a display from the National Collection of Tall Bearded Iris by Sarah Cook, head gardener at Sissinghurst. I filled a sketch book, and hoped I might one day visit her garden to paint them en plein air. What I did not know at the time was that this collection of rare species was originally bred by acclaimed artist and plantsman Sir Cedric Morris. An artist whose garden and life was shaped by his love for one species, his painterly knowledge was gained in both observation and cultivation. He found, planted, and grew the subjects in his still-lifes, and this deep sense of connection really resonated with me, in particular: “There must always be great understanding between the painter and the thing painted, otherwise there can be no conviction and truth.” Cedric Morris
When an article appeared in the RHS magazine on Sarah Cook, it rekindled the memory. Then, chatting with my mother in her garden in Suffolk, a door finally opened. She contacted a friend who put me in touch with Sarah and suddenly, unbelievably, I was given an invitation to her garden with only one caveat: I had to wait until June when her iris collection would be in flower. It is hard to put into words my experience of both observing Morris’s living creations and painting those iris, but it was both humbling and inspiring.
This moment collided with another angle of thought I had been following: the idea of ‘a well gardened mind’ so perfectly articulated by the author Sue Stuart-Smith. Here was an author saying what I was trying to paint, in a book given to me at exactly the right time. Like a studio, a garden is a physical space; over time, what you create – a garden, a painting, a house – is woven into your sense of identity. Perhaps this is why I became so interested in the image of a pathway, which emerges as a repeating motif throughout my work; an empty road or track that leads the viewer into the paintings, right up to the vanishing point, creating a sensation of going into something, or perhaps finding your way back, like a clearing. These are the things I want to remember.
“In many ways, I work like a gardener; I like to get my hands stuck into the earth, walk through paths, along borders, plant seeds, take cuttings, and let them grow. When I start a painting, it is often in a moment of spontaneity, with a sense of urgency.” Victoria Fletcher