Absence of Essence | Stuart Rushworth | 05 October - 24 November 2013

This year’s Joan Day Painting Bursary has been awarded to the West Yorkshire artist, writer and poet Stuart Rushworth. The Joan Day Bursary is an annual award in tribute to the memory of painter, Joan Day, who lived and worked in Yorkshire for much of her life. South Square Gallery offers this bursary to support promising emerging painters, inviting them to produce new work for a solo exhibition in the gallery.

Fascinated by the interiority of memory and its relationship to the physical world, Stuart Rushworth’s work explores how we assemble landscape and streetscape as memories when we are not physically in them. His ‘memory works’ began as an investigation into the formation and decay of memory and the role played by abstract visual languages within this relationship. Using photography to offer lucid pockets, or islands of an archipelago, he explores how boundaries are crossed and one place becomes another. Nonetheless the boundary between landscape and urban is never entirely distinct in Rushworth’s work, as aspects of each leak into the other.

Absence of Essence is a body of work that examines three landscapes: the two moors that were homes to his maternal and paternal ancestors, and a contemporary cityscape. Although primarily an exhibition of paintings, within the show resides an absent writing, unspoken, waiting to be gleaned from the paintings. The works give no sense of an exact location and in many cases there is no indication of whether a reference is fictional, historical or contemporary. This absence provides for new associations and ideas but also a separation from a physical space. None of the paintings feel entirely finished, as they take ‘an intuitive leap’ just as the end comes in sight, and consequently there always remains a space in between for the viewer.

Influenced by Joan Day, who in her passion for nature and landscape revealed new ways of seeing and observing, Rushworth sets out his relationship to the moorland landscapes of his ancestors, who became migrants to the city and to mainstream twentieth century culture. Acutely sensitive to environments and to the people in them, he questions how the past is sustained, how we belong to it and how we filter out what we need to keep ourselves separate.

Further Images

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