They are paintings that on first impression appear to belong to the rich tradition of British landscape painting but Archer’s interest is not in the natural world, he doesn’t paint specific places, has never relied on photography and doesn’t make drawings from nature. He composes his paintings entirely from memory and imagination. The wide horizons and the mixing of land, sea, sky and cloud are pure inventions.
In the catalogue introduction Hilary Spurling writes:
The depth and darkness Archer (b. 1946) paints are essentially internal. The causeway, the cliff and the flyover, the limitless grey sea, the sunless skies that fill the greater part of each canvas with light and movement, all belong to an inner landscape. What draws the eye is the imagination at work, its transformative energy and purpose, the strange excitement that gives his manmade subjects – flyover, causeway, industrial jetty, and the looming mass of the grounded tanker to which he returns again and again – the kind of mysteriously commanding power earlier generations found in the great romantic poets and painters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Rigorously executed with an extraordinary and subtle ability in the handling of paint from impasto to the most delicate scumbles, washes and glazes, Archer’s paintings are subjected to an arduous process of layering and building up of the surface. Ideas are examined and either rejected or allowed to develop until the image of a convincing but fictional world is finally resolved; a fascinating and mysterious world that touches on the sublime; a world underpinned by a symbolic use of light that is firmly in the Northern European tradition.