No one can be more in tune with nature than the landscape painter who walks. Each step on the way changes some aspect of experience and all experience, internal and external, is put to work in the creative process. And for a painter so sensitive to change, in weather, in the growth and decay of nature’s cycle there might be sufficient on the doorstep, or from the studio window to inspire a lifetime’s work, indeed the profusion of nature exaggerated by geography might positively discourage travel.
Duncan Shanks is not cowed by the full spectacle of nature: of towering thunderheads, of fires burning on a rocky mountain-top, or the rush of the waterfall but his engagement is not casual; it is not the chance pointing of his apparatus at a surprise natural occurrence. Instead he understands how change is the constant and that death is ever present.
In Drawing the Year, he has deliberately abandoned his sketchbook in favour of single, larger sheets to record what he has always recorded, the passing seasons from his studio, across the garden, the river, up the valley side to the ever changing sky. The sequence gives us a unique understanding of the artist’s approach, the place and perhaps our own short tenure within it.