Since school days I’ve taken watercolours out to describe the landscape, and have returned to painting with them seriously for 4 years now. This choice of paint is both emotive and practical; their translucent qualities are fascinating and addictive, and their drying time is ideal for outdoor use. In addition watercolours have, for the most part, played a marginal role in art history, so their weight of painterly language is a lighter, which I like. Having never been taught how to use them in art schools is also of significance to me, finding my own way to use them, including adding sand, scratching into the paper and using sticks to draw with them.
The inspiration for my work always lies beyond the four white walls of my studio, and I am repeatedly drawn back to the same tree filled spaces. Perhaps this is because I come from a place in England of open landscapes where forests are few and far between. Or perhaps it is the same sense of ‘wellbeing’ many people experience in forests.
Traditionally this pull of nature has been understood with romantic poetic adjectives however more recently a more scientific approach has, for me, provided us with more satisfying answers. In Peter Wohlleben’s book ‘The Hidden life of Trees’ (2017) he writes how scientific research explains our enjoyment of forests; not only is the air cleaner under trees, as their leaves filter out harmful pollutants but pine forests release defensive compounds that kill germs. Furthermore trees release increased amounts of oxygen, so walking in a forest becomes “like taking a shower in oxygen” and our blood pressure decreases. All of which amounts to our sense of wellbeing for us while being surrounded by trees.
Or perhaps my sense of the importance of painting landscapes is rooted in the ethos of our times. Facts such as in 2016, 95% of the world’s population have breathed air which did not meet with World Health Guidelines (G. Fuller, 2018, The Invisible Killer) are forcing us to rethink our relationship with the natural world.
Whatever the motivations, be they personal, poetic, scientific or political, the value of the natural word is still very much on the agenda.
Painting landscapes for me is not an attempt to create a substitute for nature, nor do I want to project a symbolic or emotive response onto it, but it is about reawakening a forgotten need to connect with it. And through spending long time alone painting in nature, the creative imagination develops a slow and quiet understanding of the significance of this connection.
Caroline Ward-Raatikainen (b. 1965) studied painting at St Martin’s School of Art and The Royal Academy in London (1984-88), and then at the Kuvataideakatemia in Helsinki. She returned to complete a second Degree in Science in Physiotherapy also in London. On moving to Finland in 2010 she started to paint again. This is her first solo exhibition.
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