Charles Simpson: Painting the Light

Published 16 May 2019

In March of this year, our Pall Mall gallery hosted ‘Painting the Light’, an exhibition of Charles Simpson’s beautiful collection of paintings. Typical to Charles’ style, the selection of oil paintings showed an array of landscapes and seascapes with vast skies as a dominating feature. As a result, the walls of the gallery were doused with vibrant blues and turquoise hues, the predominate colours used by Charles to capture the dazzling ephemerality of light in these coastal scenes.

Charles depicts various points along the north-western Scottish coastline. It is here Charles remarks on the wonderous, unique light that inspires his paintings which could be seen to influence the iridescent splendour they appear to possess. The painting Magical Day presents a particularly enchanting moment where light bounces across the sea, almost as if it is refracting off of the canvas itself. 

Charles Simpson 'Magical Day' 2019

Charles Simpson 'Magical Day' 2019

Throughout his practice Charles has continually been enticed by the effects of light, which he himself confessed to becoming an increasing fascination of his. The ever-changing light conditions, are influential to Charles’ paintings, as each moment is fleeting. With this in mind, the translation of these illusive moments to paint poses a difficult challenge.

In a short film produced by the artist, we see him walk up Mains Hill. The video sees Charles confront blustery winds and highlights the difficult conditions he faces in his determination to capture these spectacular scenes. As a painter of light, Charles opts to work outside. In doing so, he too faces the elements that are changing the landscapes he is painting. The reward when painting something so challenging is evident in the authenticity of each piece of work, replicating not only what he sees but his experience also. By positioning himself to paint in wide open spaces, Charles’ paintings possess a similarly breath taking quality as if we too are there. Our experience is undoubtedly enhanced by Charles’ ability to paint light so magnificently.

If you would like to view the video please click here.

The paintings featured in this exhibition were drafted from numerous locations along the north-west coast of Scotland from Arisaig to Redpoint. By travelling along the coastline, Charles’ paintings detail the slight differences in light according to the place. The geography of the coastline alters the forward-facing direction throughout his journey. At Redpoint, for example, the dramatic change in the coastline would interrupt the western facing direction and force the artist to face toward the south-east. This changing direction is likely to contribute to the varying effects of light, as from each viewpoint the sun will take a different path across the sky.

Charles Simpson 'Redpoint' 2019

Charles Simpson 'Redpoint' 2019

The two paintings of Traigh, a small settlement in Arisaig, are a perfect example of the striking difference the time of day can have on the landscape. The palette used to recreate the morning light is brighter as the artist uses white paint to mould the land with light. In an attempt to capture the afternoon light, however, the whiter tones remain concealed beneath layers of darker blues, greens and greys that suggest light behind the clouds, simultaneously creating a sense of depth. The varying light levels can be seen to create a dramatic contrast in effect.

Charles Simpson 'Traigh Morning'

Charles Simpson 'Traigh Morning'

Charles Simpson 'Traigh Afternoon'

Charles Simpson 'Traigh Afternoon'

If you would like too see the full collection of paintings from Painting the Light, please click here. 

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