Press Release – Philomena and the Sea
In this exhibition, Philomena Harmsworth has let her imagination sail over (and under!) nautical waters. Always fascinated by the sea, her Dad used to take her out deep-sea fishing as a child. Now, as an adult, she feels she needs to live by the sea, and loves being on a boat; but is almost a little afraid of the sea’s huge, unquantifiable mass. It is these feelings she explores in “Philomena and the Sea”. This eclectic exhibition ranges from narrative paintings of the sea, to landscapes with sea views, and close up observations of boats and fish.
The narrative paintings evoke the feeling of being involved in a nautical story. You are drawn into storms, the flight of sea birds, sailing and then the warmth of shelter, the titles hinting at the stories they came from. In many of the pictures the earthy colour of the figures and boats contrast harmoniously with the sea.
Another series examine the unknown aspects of under the sea. The sea can be hundreds of miles deep and we know so little about it. Philomena says, “Sometimes you can’t describe it, you just have to try and understand it”. She has used the contrasts between old-fashioned, and sometimes biblical images of fishing and sailing on the water; and mysterious dream-like thoughts about what lies underneath. This could range from children’s imaginary monsters to huge whales whose size defies understanding. In one of them, swimmers and rocks seem similar, indistinguishable from each other.
The landscapes, an integral feature of every exhibition, are all local Abbotsbury scenes. They are of safe viewing points over the sea, and landscapes affected by the sea. Gnarled wind blown trees, the summer colours of sea cliffs, fortification: like hills painted in swirls like the sea itself.
Another set of pictures is about the experience of swimming. Moments in time. How it feels to be like a boat ploughing through water, or swimming under the stars.
The other pictures are of nautical objects. Cubist: like “Bobbing Prettily”. They hint at where the boat has been and where it is going. Some, “Resting Warriors”, are older, well-used boats that have seen some action. Finally some salmon, which give a glimpse into Philomena’s sister show currently running in Beaminster “Forever Shifting”.
“Philomena and the Sea” is by an artist maturing and solidifying her technique; who is also original and keen to try new ideas. It runs until the 24th of December.
By Carolyn Emett