Danielle Arnaud/Clink Wharf Gallery, London
Whats on Magazine April 1998
Landscape artist Alan Rankle is currently staging a site-specific installation of large-scale paintings and accompanying studies, entitled Terre Verte. Landscape has always been the thread running through his work and provides his motivation and focus. He explained: “Landscape art has an increasing relevance in the light of present day environmental issues, that transcends stylistic variations and critical contentions.”
A contemporary of Malcolm McClaren and Michael Taylor, Rankle studied at Goldsmiths’ College in the 1970s, which he describes as “a very volatile but seminal period”. The college’s preoccupations ranged from the extreme theories of Art and Landscape to the sumptuous, abstract painting of Albert Irvin and Basil Beattie. “The Catholic use of ideas and media encouraged students to acquire the techniques to achieve their vision, rather than fall within strictly defined categories. A new scene arose in which trans-curricular and cultural boundaries became acceptable. After his Western Art education Rankle began to study Chinese Painting and Calligraphy which he regards as the ultimate vocabulary to express emotions through precise gestures.” He also studies art restoration to enable him to understand the techniques of the Old Masters. Although he regards himself as first and foremost a conceptual artists, he has concentrated on painting for several years and works using unconventional materials like gold leaf, rust and verdigris. Landscape painting is one aspect of Rankle’s ongoing interest in environmental art. He explained; “Environmental art can be art that changes an environment or the pictorial representation of landscape. I try to work somewhere in between.
“In the period leading up to my Riverfall series, I concentrated on changing social attitudes to the environment through the Earthscape project. Order out of Chaos and Arts for Earth which drew attention to ecological issues.” In a recent exhibition at Christie’s, Endangered Spaces, the brief was for 50 artists to create work in response to the threatened countryside. The traditional framework of landscape painting appeals to Rankle as there he has a direct relationship with an audience that already exists. He commented: The artist should expand the viewers’ perception of what art is, beyond what is within the picture frame. Great art is essentially conceptual because it makes people think.” Rankle aims to engage the viewer with what is familiar because this encourages them to look in the first place. At first glance some of his paintings can appear like conventional pastoral scenes. The onlooker’s attention is then subverted by unfamiliar or disquieting elements.
Rankle is trying to precipitate a dialogue, not only with other people but with his own feelings. “To my mind the high point of landscape art is when people get a sense of heightened perception about their experience of their own world.
“The feelings of being confronted by the awesome scale of nature that compels artists to try and catch that elusive moment when the mystery of the landscape reflects their own inner self.” He is greatly influenced by Zen Painting which he sees as confronting the contradictions between the gentleness of nature and its forceful exchange of energies. His work, Falling Earth, one of the works in this latest exhibition, evokes a timeless, magical quality yet simultaneously denotes the impression of a fragile, ephemeral beauty, which is conveyed by the work’s title. This implies that the apparent perfection of nature is not what it seems, and, on a second glance, the viewer can sense an earth which is declining despite its glamorous facade.
Several large pieces of his work were recently in an exhibition at Addison-Wesley-Longman’s in Harlow. His work also hangs in corporate environments like Hammersons, Coutts and perhaps ironically Exon Chemicals, as well as the Beatrice Royal Gallery owned by B & Q founder, David Quayle. Rankle is very keen on his work not just going to a collector but being hung in the fabric of people’s everyday working world. He has exhibited at Artists Unlimited in Bielefeld, Rye Art Gallery, The ICA and Southampton City Art Gallery, among others, and his work hangs in numerous private galleries and collections.