CATALOGUE

Introduction

Judy Buxton is a distinguished painter by any standard, and not just for the quality of her actual work, both technical and imaginative, which of itself is recommendation enough, but for what it represents in relation to the painting of her generation at large. For we live in an age in which, on the one hand, painting is too often glibly written off as moribund and irrelevant especially to younger artists, in the light of current experimental and conceptual developments: and, on the other, even when taken up in defiance of such orthodoxy, is done so in a spirit more of easy expressionist indulgence and attention-seeking novelty. Simply to insist on painting what one wants and needs to paint, with due attention to the disciplines and qualities of paint itself, and the slow incremental development of the work itself, in terms of image and idea, has always been a brave thing to do. But to have done so as a young painter through the 1980s and 1990s, against the tide of conventional student expectation and critical fashion, has been brave indeed.
The wonderful thing, of course, is that out of just such commitment has come work not only fully-realised and mature, but also consistently beautiful and full of interest. And while it stands within a certain contemporary manner and tradition, it is also instantly recognisable as entirely Ms Buxton’s own. Conjured out of a surface worked at once with a firm confidence and infinite delicacy, with its cool and chalky palette and its rich impasto, here always we find that characteristic light and open pictorial space under a diffuse and gentle light. Aha, we say, as we come upon the canvas on the gallery wall, or see it walked past us as we judge the competition, that must surely be by Judy Buxton.

That all abstraction is a kind of landscape, by virtue of the space and light generated by the merest mark upon the canvas, is a commonplace of criticism, but the converse too has a certain truth to it: that all representation is abstract too, in its formal structures and physical being. It is this ambiguous painterly no-man’s land that Judy Buxton has long inhabited and explored, with her still-lifes that hover on the very verge of description, and held
in a space that even as it reads as a table or a room, moves out towards infinity. Latterly landscape has largely replaced the still-life as her principal interest, thereby removing even that marginal, teasing focus, leaving only the space and light of what was once the room, but is the space and light indeed of sea and sky and a touch, a thought, of earth.

There is no essential contradiction in this, but only a moving on. For, by inference and the general ambiguities of scale, those still-lifes were no less instinct with the sensation and experience of landscape. And spiritually, emotionally and visually, the landscapes that have followed are still curiously and precisely descriptive, in the way that the merest hint can be so powerfully particular and exact, in the experience and memory it evokes– a Proustian bite at a madeleine, a simple chord, a Turnerian touch of colour in the clouds. Yet even as we respond to them, deeply and immediately as images and celebrations of sea and sky, these recent paintings could hardly be more abstract. They mark her out as one of the most serious and remarkable painters, and not just of her generation, that we have.

– William Packer: art critic, Financial Times: April 2004

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Judy Buxton

Ralph Freeman

Richard Nott

Neil Canning

Sax Impey

Jeremy Annear

NMG Winter ’03