Shades of Green: an exhibition

Locked down with an exhilaratingly beautiful view of the Somerset countryside, Sandra Higgins had the idea to invite different artists to respond to her home landscape. The results are unexpectedly varied, and not all are green, observes Emma Clegg.

The exhibition Shades of Green is a personal project that art curator and art advisor Sandra Higgins has been working on since the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020. The idea was inspired by the dramatic views of the Somerset landscape from her Englishcombe home – this stimulating and expansive view was one that she was constantly in contact with during the course of her lockdown isolation.

With degrees in Printmaking and History of Art, Sandra has worked in the art business for many years, first in her hometown of Chicago as an artist and art tutor, then in the UK as art administrator, curator and gallery owner of Sandra Higgins Fine Arts in Mayfair. So it was perhaps not surprising that what became the Shades of Green project was always planned to culminate in an exhibition.

“I gathered together a specially selected group of artists, intentionally diverse in their practices, and asked each to respond to the same landscape view after visiting the location,” Sandra explains. “The work of the 13 artists ranges from abstract and figurative to surreal and pop, and the exhibition is as much about their individual artistic connections with nature as about how they depict it through the works they have created.”

The result is an eclectic one, with the exhibition located in the Central Corridor at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Combe Park, from 12 May – 24 July. Here are some enlightening commentaries from a selection of the artists explaining how they approached the work:

“Often my painting starts with colour, though I have never worked with one colour alone. Sandra set me this challenge of working with green, painting with only one colour. I didn’t know what would come out… Of all the hues green seems able to offer the greatest number of variants without it losing its basic identification.” Roy Osborne

“The question of the relationship between nature and my own painting is an interesting one. One pre-eminent critic [Mel Gooding] has said that my work, though abstract, finds its root in the place where I have lived and worked for 50 odd years [Stroud]. Another [Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Gallery] states that the paintings could just as easily have been made in a studio block in Dalston. Perhaps these ambiguities are what fascinates me and I hope they are expressed in the light given out by naturalistic colour bodying forth from my canvases.” Pete Hoida

“I work en plein air as it is essential for me as a landscape artist to react to the three dimensions before me. I am a painter of the light. And it is the light that unifies a view before me.” David Walsh

“I have a fascination with sunken forests, but trees and greenery, well, it’s just not a palette I’m drawn to. I travelled over to Bath and slowly I started to see beyond the foliage and the green and concentrate on the structure of the garden and the hills and slopes beyond.” Day Bowman

“The day I visited Englishcombe, the valley was quiet and clothed in soft light and a gentle mizzle. I was impressed by the peacefulness of the valley… Other impressions were of benign neglect: a junglesque wildness but with well-trodden paths and subtle boundary making. there was evidence of former life. A path framed by overarching trees; a spoil-heap of fragmented terracotta…” Iain Cotton

Sandra says, “My sincere thanks go to the participating artists whose creative minds and sensitive artworks have contributed so successfully to the realisation of this project over the last two years: John Ball, Day Bowman, Louisa Burnett-Hall, Iain Cotton, David Ferry, Pete Hoida, Timothy Emlyn Jones, Marguerite Horner, Susan McDonald, Fiona McIntyre, Roy Osborne, Richard Walker and David Walsh.

Art at the Heart of the RUH displays artwork along corridors and in departments – most are available to buy with a third of each sale going to the RUH Arts Fund.

The Shades of Green exhibition, curated by Sandra Higgins, is in the Central Corridor, The Royal United Hospital, Combe Park, Bath from 12 May – 24 July;;

Featured image: the dramatic views of the Somerset landscape from Sandra’s Englishcombe home