Doone Courtenay

February 2012


Doone Courtenay
Tea at 94
94 Buccleuch Street 
“The sea acts as a prism through which I see myself. Its moods, moments, colours and light - seen either from wave or shore - are metaphors for my own inner life. Paint acts as a maleable, sculpted medium - weighted, thick, textured - an expressive physical presence.”
So says artist Doone Courtenay in relation to her series of new paintings currently on show at the café ‘Tea at 94’.  
The café owner, Michelle Doull, has recently opened the fresh and colourful premises just of the Meadows in Edinburgh. Michelle intends to show the work of aspiring artists and already has a small queue of hopefuls lined up from Edinburgh College of Art.
Commenting on her new venture Michelle Doull adds:
Tea at 94 is a Tearoom that aims to recreate the Tea rooms of old but with a modern twist.  We serve a  wide range of cakes and pastry baked on the premises served alongside a range of speciality teas and high quality coffee.  We also offer breakfast and lunch as well.  As part of the experience I thought it would be good to utilise the wall space by displaying work of local artists and art students, creating an ever changing backdrop to the Tearoom.
Opening a teashop has always been a dream of mine coupled with a lifelong love of baking.  I started out in the world of nutrition and dietetics before travelling the world and settling in Japan for 5 years. Upon my return to the UK I built a career in finance and investment spanning around 14 years.  I left the world of corporate finance in 2010 and worked in Bakery Andante in Morningside baking cakes for a year before taking on the lease for 94 Buccluech Street.  Tea at 94 was born in December 2011.
Doone, who was based in Devon until recently has always been absorbed by the sea: its moods, tensions, challenges and delights. An accomplished sailor, Doone has crewed all round the British coast as well as the Mediterranean and Baltic.
Her view of the sea is not as a calm and serene element but as something passionate, stormy and infinitely varied. Her work, in the tradition of J.M.W. Turner, invites the viewer to participate in an elemental experience. Turner famously strapped himself to the mast of a sailing ship in rough seas to enter a fully participative experience. Turner saw in the infinite variety and majesty of the sea what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins saw elsewhere in nature – a quality which he described as ‘inscape.’
The seascape tradition and by extension, that of landscape, from Constable to Munch and from Cezanne to Caspar David Friedrich is an emotionally attributive exercise in that the external world acts as a prism through which we experience an emotional state. 
Thus Doone finds her emotional and spiritual home in the element of water. Here there is solace, comfort, empathy and completeness. It is this most capricious and unpredictable element that excites, perplexes and fascinates Doone. Thus, her work is both a physical and spiritual journey of self- exploration.
In this context it is important to note the relationship of these works to what is termed ‘the sublime’. An aesthetic and philosophical concept, the origin of the concept of the sublime traditionally has been attributed to the Greek poet Longinus. However, the concept was taken up by the Romantic poets, principally by Coleridge and Wordsworth. These thinkers defined the sublime as a concept that differed from beauty. The sublime was infinite, complex and unfathomable. It occurred as product of awe in the face of the natural world.
In an important contribution to the idea of the sublime Christian Hirschfeld wrote in his Theorie der Gartenkunst  (1779-1780), in a discussion of landscape : “physical grandeur {becomes} transformed into spiritual grandeur” . 
This is a curiosity and a coincidence given Doone Courtenay’s  training and work in landscape design. It is not difficult to draw connections between the creative practices of gardening – in itself a combination of colour, form, sense and sculpture – and that of painting.
Doone Courtenay’s paintings, therefore, suggest the sublime in their sense of awe and spiritual connection. Unpeopled, these works are reverential amalgams of landscape memory. Always touching reality, they work above and beyond the surface of things. They strive for the essence and the deep core of meaning which only empathy with nature – and a feeling for the sublime – can bring.