Kate Bright: Soft Estate, 2018
Text by M Hill
68 pages, Softcover
Published by Locks Art Publications
Bright describes the fantastic array of plants depicted in what one would otherwise consider fairly homogeneous areas as “escapees from the domesticated environment,” claiming these scenes are the product of “cultivated plants growing rogue.” The image of non-native garden plants escaping to the wild lends to the ephemerality of these floral scapes and evokes a larger concern with the ways in which we have dominated nature through language. For Bright, assigning these rogue areas with the diminutive term of soft estate immediately evokes the implications of the man-made, hard estate and “its indelible mark on the land.” Like the fantasy of summer holiday, Bright’s newest suite of paintings exude the heat of mid-summer through bold hues; near pattern-like compositions; and a tangible sense of movement—triggering sensual illusions and providing an ambivalent portrait of nature by portraying highly realistic renderings through aradical palette. In the four paintings composing the Between a Dog and a Wolf (2017-18) series, sharp leaves varying in tint from believable greens and yellows to outrageous pinks, purples, and oranges burn in the late evening light and cut vibrant strokes across rich green backgrounds. The explosion of softer fantasy tints in the broad leaves of Holloway (2017) ebb rhythmically, emitting an inviting glow; while the nuclear hum of Blue Bamboo (2018) causes one to wonder whether the work is a delivery to a dreamscape, or a prediction of a swiftly descending unnatural future.
Throughout her career, Bright has ensnared the viewer and delivered them to a plane where individual imaginaries and collective consciousness collide—creating the perfect moment, on the perfect day, in the perfect season—tinged with the reality of our fading connection to the land. In closing, Bright offers this prescription for contemporary landscapes, “It seems that the further we remove ourselves from nature physically, the more we wish to embrace it culturally[…]The depiction of the natural whether by way of fantasy, myth, or the picturesque is allowed in the studio as compensation for our lost relationship with the outdoors.” One can only hope these evocative investigations continue as they have countless times in Bright’s work, from frigid lanes coated in fresh snow, untroubled by treadmarks and footprints; to pools of Mediterranean blue water whose shimmering surface seems to to lap the edge of the canvas, inviting you in; and now inenigmatic investigations of British flora cut with tropical shades that render it simultaneously alien and achingly familiar. In providing these small escapes, perhaps Bright is presenting a catalyst that can once again spark an empathetic connection to the natural realm.