Selected Solo and mixed exhibitions
2016 The Kilmorack Gallery, 'Northern Horizons'
2014 The Heinzel Gallery, ‘Remote Horizons’
2013 The Airt Gallery, Kintore
' Landscapes of the Mind ‘
2012 The Discerning Eye, the Mall Gallery, London
2010 Balman Gallery, Corbridge. 'Scapes'
Kilmorack Gallery, Beauly.‘Turn of the Tide’
2009 Mansfield Park Gallery,Glasgow.
‘From Darkness comes Light’
2008 Kilmorack Gallery, Beauly.‘The Word in Art’
Greens and Blues Gallery, North Berwick.
‘Between Earth and Sky’
2007 Highland Artists, Inverness, Year of Culture.
2005 Greens and Blues Gallery, North Berwick.
‘The Elemental Landscape’
Beaux Arts, Bath. Mixed Summer Show.
The Gallery, Cork Street London, Kilmorack.
2003 Tolquhon Gallery, Aberdeenshire.
Heinzel Gallery, Aberdeen. ‘In the Blood’
Campden Gallery, Chipping Campden.
‘The Contemporary Landscape’
2002 Castlegate Gallery, Cockermouth.
‘Horizon and Reflection’
1999 The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh.
1990 The Andrew Usiskin Gallery, London.
‘ High - Lands’
1989 Olympia, London. BA Artists award exhibition.
1988 Compass Gallery, Glasgow.
‘New Generation Scottish Artists’
1986 Nancy Graham Memorial Prize (SSWA)
Hospital Field Scholarship
1988 Chalmers Jarvise Prize RSA
1989 Finalist, BA Artists Award Olympia
2000 Art TM Open Prize
2008 Canon ABT Award Prize Winner
2016 Nairn Open Exhibition 'Art Media Prize'
High Summer by a Mountain Lochan
When artists talk about their work as a journey, something transformative happens. The canvas - object and picture plane stops being a portrayal of something literal, or a particular moment captured, and assumes an extra weight. It begins to bear the marks of process, a much richer and thought provoking territory. Process operates beyond the static confines of the art object as a finished thing, turning a painting into a document, laying bare the act of making. An artist driven by process says the path taken is a equally valid as the object they leave behind, that the journey they have traveled should be left evident. Like a strange tense this kind of art making shows you where it has been, presents where it is now and projects the image into a future beyond. It is art on the move,where the artist acts as pathfinder.
Kirstie Cohen, as both painter and wayfarer, is a master of this kind of flux. She doesn’t seem particularly bothered about destination or map reading, relying on her training and innate ability as a picture maker to lead her through the geography of a composition. Her paintings are a constant dialogue between finding and losing; losing the path, finding the way and succumbing to the cycle over again. Lines, forms, colours, textures – all cornerstones of the artwork – appear and change, are submerged and retraced, as if she wants the viewer to accompany her in her act of searching. But what is she searching for and what is her terrain? The quest is both formal and more abstract, an emotive response in tune with the compositional requirements of a painting. The result is both accessible yet remote.
For many, landscape painting is about a particular place. Many gallery visitors like a work to be clearly situated as a reminder of where they have been, or where they imagine they would like to go. In this respect the painter acts as a kind of scenic photographer, but Kirstie rejects such restrictions. Her places are not actual, rather existing as a vaguer, remembered, re-interpreted idea. She eschews definite geographical locations, because it causes problems
progressing the painting, preferring instead to be freer to create without absolute physical reference. As she says, it is the paint that suggests her reference not an exact place. But beyond the obvious visual lexicon of the paint medium itself, lies a deeper interpretation of place and being, one that points to a recognition and closer reading of something more indefinite in nature.
The title of this exhibition, Remote Horizons, points to such a handling of the indefinite. It draws upon a piece of writing by the Caithness author Neil Gunn who described the associative nature of place in his short article,‘High Summer by a Mountai Lochan’,written in 1960. In it Gunn outlines an appreciation of the Scottish Highlands that is so alive in the presence of nature, that it becomes an all-encompassing experience. One particular spot comes to speak for a wider generic understanding of the region, evoking not one definite place but a myriad of Highland views. In the face of this overwhelming indefinite, the everyday is forgotten and the ‘mind is at last free of time and space’. This viewer is neither here nor there but rather floating above the scene, ‘lost in looking’.
Kirstie has been greatly inspired by Gunn and the vertiginous sense of beauty he describes, the feeling of being lost, is evident throughout her work. As an artist who claims draughtsmanship is important to her compositions, she is acutely aware of the importance of a horizon line and often chooses to place them low on the picture plane. As the terrain arches forward into the foreground, tricks are played and the viewer is uncertain whether they are near or far from mountain features, whether they are hovering in the clouds or emerging from low lying mist. It is both unsettling and enlivening, shifting the premise on which any image is navigated.
The idea of losing oneself in the presence of an epic, expansive landscape is not new and can be found in artists that Kirstie cites as direct influences, perhaps the most significant being the great Romantic pioneer Caspar David Friedrich. In paintings such as The Monk on the Shore (1808) and The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818), Friedrich defined the genre of landscape painting. Landscape was no longer subservient to the figure, a mere backdrop, but rather the subject of the painting itself. With his paintings of solitary lone individuals, dwarfed by weather and geology, he turned the
external postcard view into a subjective depiction of the thoughts and feelings of the artist. An invitation is extended to the viewer, to see and feel the natural world as the artist does; as isolating, awesome and powerful.
In much the same way Kirstie offers up her subjective, abstracted view of nature. With diffuse brushstrokes and surety of colour – sometimes cool, sometimes vibrant – she captures both the tranquil and the tempestuous, letting herself be guided by her understanding of tone, contrast and spatial relationships. Her work bears an intensity that is as overwhelming as it is true.
It takes stamina and artistic bravery to embark upon this kind of painting journey, to allow yourself to proceed without reference and a definite plan, to respond repeatedly to the demands of your medium and the workings of the self. Produced over long periods of time, her paintings are not snapshots of vistas once visited. Instead the viewer is allowed access to a combined series of moments and a stream of inner self. It takes a certain courage to reveal the self in this way and skill to traverse such vivid terrain
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