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ABOUT THE ARTIST

Victoria Orr Ewing left her native Scotland to study fine art in London, before embarking on a peripatetic life, travelling and painting in Britain and Asia. She moved to Gaucin in 2000, and immediately fell under the spell of Andalucia’s wild, natural landscape, the sea views, sunshine and light.

She is known for her moody Scottish landscapes that show off the effect of light and shadow on water but still spends part of the year exploring new landscapes, and has staged solo and group exhibitions in Scotland, England, and Spain.

Interview with the artist: 2012

Most of your landscapes and waterscapes are oil paintings: what is it about oil as a medium that appeals to you? Isn’t this a particularly difficult medium to master?

Oil is definitely my medium of choice. A lot of non-artists seem to be daunted by oil. But it is an easier medium to use than many others because it is far more malleable and versatile, and a lot of fun. It is endlessly manipulable, change is always possible whether you use it with soft brushes, thin it like a watercolour or apply it very thick with a palette knife and fingers. Of course it does need practice and study, if only to understand how to apply it.
I think it is difficult to get the richness and subtlety of colour that you can achieve with oil in other mediums. Oil takes a long time to dry, so it stays malleable longer, making it easier to achieve the soft edges I like in my work.

V Orr Ewing HP Loma del Mar H200

I used to do a lot of watercolour, and still love the way it is so immediate and loose, and very easy to use when you travel. When I first went to India I didn’t have a camera, just a set of watercolours and a sketchbook, so I painted a lot. I love charcoal too and tend to prefer brushes and ways of covering the surface fairly quickly rather than nibs.

You spent several months in Sri Lanka last year: What effect has that had on your work, and your use of light and shadow?

V Orr Ewing Text Insert 2 Sea Urchin W220

When I left Sri Lanka I wondered if it had been a mistake: I did not find the tropical landscape of the South very inspiring nor the light effects as sunset and sunrise are so fleeting there. But in retrospect I see that it pushed me to look elsewhere for my inspiration. I went back to studying small, natural forms.  I like to draw attention to the landscape and structure within pieces of nature, like a broken shell or a dried flower and by amplifying them, I make them almost become abstract, something recognised yet unexpected. I was attempting to do this before I came to Spain, and I have continued with this work back home in Gaucin and find it very interesting how differently I approach this subject this time around.

I also found myself painting the moody skies of the monsoon, not as backdrops to the paddy fields and palm trees, but instead as a more urban landscape with small groups of people looking out over the stormy seas. That is something I want to continue doing here on the Spanish coast – and that should be interesting given most people’s attitude to the costa!

A lot of your paintings are of Scottish landscapes and seem to capture the effect of light – usually thrown by a low-set sun – on water. What is it that appeals to you about the light effects you experience in Scotland, and how does the different light in southern Spain affect your work?

Growing up in Scotland I grew accustomed to the low light sandwiched between clouds and a glowering rugged landscape, and you find this quite often here in Spain too – the bands of lights and darks, strips of bright sky, shiny light reflected on water, pale mists and patches of sunlight touching horizons. These, in contrast to dark clouds and landscape, help achieve a strong abstract quality in a landscape. It is more important to me than where the landscape is or depicting a certain place.

I have been drawn to the wilderness, to landscapes with few or no signs of human presence. The landscape in some of Scotland, especially in winter, has the most extraordinary and beautiful colours and shapes, the bright bronze of dying bracken, ochre grasses, orange seaweeds against black rocks, purple heather. Lit by a low sun appearing from beneath a dark sky, these colours seem to glow with incredible richness. Rolling green fields never inspired me much.

V Orr Ewing Text Insert 3 Sunset W240

I find the light in Spain less soft but it can be just as magical. The weather can cause very dramatic effects and I am drawn to fleeting moments of atmospheric change, where a moment of beauty evaporates in an instant.

I like landscapes that remind us that we are small in the magnificence of the world and nature. I think it is similar with the natural forms I like to paint. When you look closely at a shell, a flower, a seed or a seedpod, the forms are awe-inspiring and incredibly beautiful – or as one of my favourite poets, William Blake, wrote, it allows us “To see the world in a grain of sand, And heaven in a wild flower”.


 Artist's Statment: 2012

 SCOTTISH SKIES

 'Going away is coming home.' Ernesto Cardinal.

A great passion for travel and living in distant places informs my pictorial vision. Wherever I go I absorb sensation, the characteristics of the far away place. I collect pictorial notes, the aesthetic magnet is to look at deep, empty spaces of nature and contemplate their changes in time.

There is a compelling attraction in the phenomenology of the elements. It’s an inexhaustible dictionary of our condition.

The pairing of opposites, as in the substance of landscape matter with the ephemeral fleeting moment of continuous change, arrests my attention, makes me want to paint it as a means of both taking position and claiming possession, making it mine.

 I absorb the light, and then mood, air and weather. There is a romantic dimension in that space extending beyond the visible, outside the edges of the painting and further than the horizon, intending to touch on the maybe, without being spelt out, and yet imagined.

 Extensive experience of this elsewhere led me to acknowledge that the seeds for this language were sown during my childhood in the scottish landscape to which I return with this new series of paintings.

 I would like these pictures to be about both the melancholy of place and the hope of a sense of endlessness.


Artist’s statement: 2009

LIGHT ON ANDALUCIA

My home is on the slope of a mountain seven hundred metres above sea level.  My present inspiration is the mountains and beaches of southern Andalusia. These paintings are about light and atmosphere, not the physical landscape, but how the circumstances of the moment, light, weather and time of day affect my vision of it.

When the clouds are below the horizon and a small patch of sunlight breaks through a dark and moody sky to touch the mountainside I am inspired; a fire burning in a valley of green, or the first rays of sunlight  on the windmills, a sea glittering between a dark sky and a still unlit land.

I invite you to drift and meditate on this wild and natural landscape, to escape from a crowded and highly stimulated world, to capture a quiet feeling of space and wonderat nature's power, occasionally punctuated by man's intervention.