Geoff Uglow: Letters from Barra

March 2011

Publication: The Times

Since graduating more than ten years ago with first class honours from Glasgow School of Art, Geoff Uglow has exceeded initial expectations about his prodigious talent as a dedicated, serious and disciplined painter.  The business of painting is a complex matter but somehow Uglow manages to make it look simple, clear and focussed – all hallmarks of a master in the making. He directs his gaze around him at land, sea or buildings and manages to combine vision with emotion, thought with feeling. In this case, he spent six weeks last winter working on Barra; the results are quite simply spectacular and a joy to behold.
 
Uglow’s vigorous working pace is indicated here by the paintings themselves; each is dated and, in some cases, major works are separated only by a day or two. Broadly these acrylics can be divided into two categories: smaller pieces where the paint is sometimes more thinly applied (in many cases in little more than a wash) and larger, more heavily worked studies. Both approaches are linked and each influences the other; combined they demonstrate great versatility and imagination.  They are full of the light and the changing mood of sea and sky: behind them, providing precedent and context, is the great genius of Turner, Rothko, Pollock and de Kooning to name but a few.  In the work dated and titled 16.11.10 almost all connections to landscape and externality are lost; what remains is mostly an inner landscape informed by external events.  Here, great daubs of red and black merge into greys, delicate violets and whites. A smaller work, completed two weeks later, is divided in two along a vertical axis: below, off-white and above a sombre grey – sea or land meeting a darkening sky or a divided, ambiguous mood? 
 
And yet, as if to bring his audience, and perhaps himself, back to earth there is a small study – almost Redpath-like in its charm – of a tiny cottage, one window illuminated against the falling night, huddled into the open landscape.  It’s a universal image, one imagines, conjuring ideas of refuge and warmth against a hostile environment
 
This Cornishman has studied hard the language of his artistic forebears but somehow, remarkably at such a young age, he has managed to forge a style all of his own. Uglow’s work demonstrates, once again, the diversity and quality of art that this country inspires – proving that art both is a continuum and a community.