1983 Farnham Maltings, Kiln Gallery, Farnham

Distinctive quality of Robert Hurdle's painting

I warmly commend an exhibition of oil paintings by Robert Hurdle, at the Johnson Wax Kiln Gallery, Farnham Maltings, my first art exhibition of 1983, and a good start.

For many years until his retirement a short while ago, Robert Hurdle taught painting at Bristol Polytechnic; he has taken part in many group shows, as well as having a number of one-man exhibitions, most of them in the West of England and South Wales (one show at the New Ashgate Gallery some five years ago). He is, as one has every reason to expect, a competent, professional artist.

His subject matter is landscape and townscape, and the 25 pictures in this show follow five separate themes; reflections in Bristol City Docks ( a strong group of three paintings filling the end wall farthest from the door), views from the Peak in Hong Kong ( where Robert had a one-man exhibition in 1978), woods, fields of corn and barley, and the Vale of Avalon at Glastonbury.

Robert does not make his painting on the spot, but prefers to work from memory, 'the painting growing from the experience of being, quit simply, at the right place at the right moment' in this way he can think through the relationship of the direct experience of the subject and its translation into a two-dimensional representation: 'Within the confines of the house, often late at night, painting is a contemplative act, a deliberate attempt to find analogies between the dual realities of the subject seen in terms of light and the canvas in terms of pigment.'

This very deliberate approach is matched by an unusual, meticulous and painstaking technique, laying down layer upon layer of translucent areas of highly thinned paint, mostly applied with a brush, sometimes spattered across areas of the surface. In this way Robert is using the medium of oil painting so as to obtain many of the qualities and advantages normally associated with watercolour.


It all adds up to a very distinctive show, strong, carefully considered images, controlled and effective use of colour (a particular fondness for blues and yellows). Although Robert is exploring familiar subject matter (apart that is, from Hong Kong) he demonstrates that there is still plenty of scope for an original and personal approach, no tricks, just careful observation, a lot of thought, a sound technique that does what he requires of it, and the persistence to ho on until he gets it right.

Robert Hurdle is not well known in Farnham (though his roots lie in Crondall): this exhibition, which I hope will be well supported, should certainly change that. I thought particularly well of his Bristol docks pictures, and those of fields of barley and corn, both excellent examples of an artists really looking at what is around him, and then translating that through his own perceptions into a series of quite excellent painted images.

This exhibition continues until January 14th, opens Monday to Friday 10 to 4.30 Saturday 10-12.



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