Nick Archers new landscape paintings focus on our relationship with the natural world and its place in our imagination.

The paintings are at first glance made from beautiful passages of rich colour which have been flooded onto the canvas, exposing interior landscapes that echo hollow fear and an inner amazement like a child watching an abandoned fairground coming alight in the dark. An imaginary landscape, where a seemingly enchanted landscape lifts off the canvas and into the mind’s eye.

The new series of forest paintings Archer has made are like scenes from contemporary fairy tales. Rows of trees often lead to a distant light which guides the viewer through the forest. Archer sees the forest paintings as a metaphor for the passage of time and our journey through life. This theme is also reflected in the process of how the paintings are made: Layer upon layer of coloured oil paint and leaves of gold foil build a rich surface which reveals the passage of time like the layers of a rock formation.

The figure has recently found its way back into the compositions. The figure (often a child) is on a journey but appears dwarfed and overwhelmed by the beauty of its surroundings. The power of nature and its sublime qualities appear to be a central force within these paintings and his method betrays a magic in spite the dark places he takes us.

Archer is not attempting to capture something about a particular place or time in these paintings, rather a notion or idea of landscape in a grander sense, something in our imagination which refers to traditional fairy tales and time gone by. At times a caravan, a vehicle or run-down cottage is central to the composition. These motifs possess human qualities, but they are abandoned and in a state of decay. They are in the process of being reclaimed by nature and allude to both a world out of kilter and a more disturbed state of being. In these paintings, we discover an unsettling balance, between childlike wonder and a more grown up fear of loneliness. The passage of time and the journey through life are implied through the journey of the artists’ gestures on the canvas.

Nick Archer (UK, b. 1963) lives and works in East Sussex, England. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London (1996-1999). Winning several awards after leaving the Royal Academy, including 1st prize at the Hunting art prize, commended at the BP Portrait Award and the Figure Painting Award at the Discerning eye. He has exhibited extensively in the UK and Europe including solo exhibitions with Louise Alexander gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy, Long and Ryle, London, Galerie Hug, Paris and a solo show at Gowen Contemporary in Geneva in 2014 and 2017. Museum exhibitions include the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Wandsworth Museum, London, a solo exhibition at the Maison de la Culture in Metz, France in 2012 and a solo show at the Hastings museum in East Sussex. Nick recently curated an exhibition ‘Time memory and landscape’ which was exhibited at Long and Ryle in London. His work is in private, corporate and public collections around the world including the future satellite of the Hermitage Museum, Moscow.

Frank Auerbach once remarket that at first sight the paintings of his friend Michael Andrews looked ‘like old railway posters’. But, he went on ‘when you really look at them they are just truly beautiful pictures’. Something of the sort could be said about Nick Archer’s recent work.

(Martin Gayford)