‘Gates of Heaven’ features works by Dorset artist David Marl who has become well-known for his small, jewel-like paintings with their references to the spiritual, and echoes of the distinctive landscapes of North Dorset. Marl regularly walks the fields and hills near his home, stopping to paint in spots he describes as ‘thin places’ – places which are close to God. The studies he produces, a number of which are included in this exhibition, inform the more considered allegorical works undertaken in his studio, and may go some way to explaining why these paintings appear to open a window on a world both familiar and yet somehow different. The otherworldliness of these very beautiful paintings is due in part to his use of spiritual imagery as angels walk beside men and crosses sit atop hills.
There are distinct echoes of Samuel Palmer in this use of a known and much-loved landscape as background to an instructional narrative. Tracks near Fontmell Down and Hambledon Hill near Shaftesbury are clearly recognisable in some of the works in Marl’s series ‘Parables without words’, and he is quick to cite Palmer as an influence. He speaks also of Eric Ravilious. Ravilious, who died in 1942 while serving as a war artist, has been described as a ‘Romantic Modern’, one writer going on to say that his work was ‘recognisably of the twentieth century, but never avant garde’. Ravilious was painting his landscapes at a time when many other artists were exploring abstraction and surrealism. Considering the works in this exhibition at The Jam Factory, a similar description might well be applied to David Marl’s work, for it is recognisably of the twenty-first century, but never ‘avant garde’.
The exhibition comes to The Jam Factory from The Slade Centre in Dorset and includes a number of drawings which illustrate the development of Marl’s work since his first solo exhibition at there in 2001.
The Slade Centre, The Square, Gillingham, Dorset SP8 4AY