Ballard Point

Ben Nicholson, whose impact on his own work Gardiner readily acknowledges, is one of a number of artists who have painted still lifes as metaphoric self-portraits. Those that Nicholson painted in combination with landscapes may be understood as metonymic representations of his studio. Just as Nicholson repeatedly depicted a familiar range of jars and mugs set on tables and windowsills, Gardiner paints a comparable group of domestic vessels including a colander, bottles and a decanter, which he keeps in his studio. We might then, see the still lifes in the relief paintings as reminders of the room in which he works on the Ballard Point series and of his own presence within it. However, in the drawings they seem to function differently. Here they are dominant and the presence of the headland is correspondingly diminished. The complexity of the drawings, in which the objects are embedded in a mass of curves, is in acute contrast to the scale and bold shapes of the panels. Gardiner’s drawings speak eloquently both of the pleasures of familiar objects and of the way in which they, like places, may constantly be seen afresh and reinterpreted.

The Ballard Point series fits readily into the modernising tradition of English landscape painting established by such artists as Nash, Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost. Like many of his predecessors Gardiner seeks out new places and visual experiences while retaining a particular fondness for a specific area. His exhibition is, then, both a homecoming and a departure; a terminus and the beginning of a new set of paintings about landscape.

Margaret Garlake