Spain: Edge of the wood

Oil on board 36.2 x 25.7 x 60cm; signed with monogram

Overall framed size 39.1 x 28.6cm

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One of a series of plein air studies from Vanessa’s travels in South Africa, Spain and Brazil, this uncompromising view of slender trunks in the bright sunlight rejects the traditional rules of landscape composition. Instead of an open path inviting the spectator into the painting, or a single tree perfoming the job of repoussoir at the side of the canvas, this group of trees is placed across the wooded vista like the bars of a cell, thwarting the expectations. This approach has something in common with Gustav Klimt’s paintings of birch woods from the early years of the 20th century, but takes the blocking of the viewer’s imaginative ingress to the wood one step further. The comparative darkness of the young tree trunks against the bice-green foliage, combined with this compositional trickery, gives the wood an expressionistic quality – the trees are implicit with a rather threatening life.

Biographical details

Vanessa Garwood was born in Israel in 1982. She studied painting and sculpture for three years at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, and now lives and works in London.  Training in the ‘sight-size’ technique in Italy has served as a foundation to build her own method of working; this has resulted in a much more flexible style.  She has spent time painting and sculpting abroad in Europe, Africa and South America, and has also undertaken a three-month sculpture apprenticeship with the South African sculptor Dylan Lewis in Stellenbosch. She produces work from life in many different genres and media: figurative portraits and conversation pieces, nudes, landscapes in oil, bronze and plaster sculptures, works on paper in charcoal, pen, ink. She is currently working on a series of subject paintings inspired by stories and fables, which she remakes in contemporary style; her sources include Aesop’s Fables, Beatrix Potter, and Struwwelpeter.

Works in public exhibitions include an entry in the 2006 BO Award at the National Portrait Gallery, which won the Visitors’ Choice Award.