Susan Laughton’s work displays a sensibility to the subtle peripheries of places and times of day; marginal places where the urban seeps into the rural and the cusp between light and darkness is present, in the gloaming or onset of dawn.
The landscape has always been her starting point; not a vision of landscape as a scenic or static view, but as a space travelled through and experienced. With this new body of work Susan further explores her impressions of landscapes viewed from her recent journeys. A number of the works are informed by the North Yorkshire coast where the artist undertook a mini residency at Staithes Harbour earlier this year.
There can be a sense of travelling without moving when viewing a landscape through the window of a travelling car or train. The countryside outside races past yet one’s own person and glance remains still; a steady stare taking in the expanse outside, the light, the sky and the horizon punctuated with telegraph wires or the tops of trees.
I think things I see whilst on the move are still my main inspiration, quite often when on the motorway, so not usually picturesque or romantic to most people but I love the constantly changing conjunction of urban, industrial, rural and suburban you get from this travelling viewpoint. I particularly like evening light when there can be a stillness as well, a sense of thoughtfulness, even when on the move.
Susan skilfully captures times of day where the light appears to be travelling in or out like a tide, preserving something of this transience in the glow of her paintings. Her choice of medium enhances these atmospheric effects and creates ethereal images suggestive of a conflation of times and places rather than depicting one distinct viewpoint. The application of plaster then acrylic paint serves to preserve and hold the colour within the surface of the painting. Often a layer of plaster is laid over the canvas leaving an implied frame suggestive of a car window.
Process and materials are important to Susan as a way of allowing the paintings to emerge as objects in their own right. Much of the subjects are carefully planned out from observational sketches and photographs but Susan also responds to the spontaneity of manipulating the materials on the surface of the canvas or board. With a background in architecture there is a strong graphic quality to the work. Precise marks articulate the forms of buildings and lineal trees occupy the horizon line, other unpredictable marks and textures are created by sanding the surface of the painting at different stages. It is this interplay of control and freedom that continues to fascinate Susan in the way she produces her work.
Susan Laughton’s paintings convey a sense of moving, observing and absorbing the shifting land uses with a pared back visual language entirely her own. The composite experience of a long car journey is distilled into a static image but a sense of movement cleverly retained. The works are both analytical and atmospheric having a balance of detailed and free marks. These are timeless images that convey gently abstracted experiences of passing perspectives, infused with travelling light.
Susan Laughton lives and works in Cheshire. Following a twelve-year career in architecture Susan studied fine art at the Bolton Institute, graduating in 2002. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the UK and in 2012 she was short listed for the John Moores Painting Prize.