Drawn to the Coast | Watercolours of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall


In Gardiner’s paintings we find the same sensation as when walking among mountains – of man’s staggering insignificance, and the consequent sense of liberation at being so small and so transitory an episode in the greater scheme of things.

Gardiner includes reflections in his paintings – large areas of echo and repeated presence. He paints a composite version of the sea, full of hidden depths, quartered by small boats, a sounding board of colour and contrast. Likewise he paints a composite of the land, not only in terms of its geological and human history, but in terms of its appearance at different times of day and in different seasons. He evokes the spirit of place, its mood, with a mixture of broad-brush treatment and contrastingly fine areas of drawing. Some are densely detailed with hairline drawing, such as the St Ives group, others are more obviously abstract with larger areas of colour carrying the emotional charge of the image; all are immensely atmospheric.

Gardiner’s surfaces are fully animated and articulated first by drawing and then by the atmospherics of colour and texture. His is a highly creative use of line in conjunction with colour-area and stain and splash. He is keen on the fruitful contrast between the built environment and the natural context, focusing on architecture but also on the movement of tides, the sprung rhythms of rock and earth. The hidden structures of landscape are ably suggested by the processes he uses: in his drawings he goes beneath the surface, much as he reveals the unseen procedures in nature, the history of the rock through its strata.

Gardiner’s distinctive laminar landscapes reveal their layered meanings only over time – this is not instant art, but art which discloses itself gradually. Its richness matches the complexity of the world it seeks to evoke, and offers back an interpretation of it which is both personal and penetrating.

Andrew Lambirth

(from catalogue essay Drawn to the Coast)