Landscape artist Sandra Ratcliffe brings the Scottish coast to Abu Dhabi in her impressive exhibition, Inspired by the Light. Caroline McEneaney finds out more about her technique and inspiration.
The roaring waves, pristine shores and stunning skies of the west coast of Scotland come to life in a new exhibition at Cafe Arabia. The show, entitled Inspired by the Light, is on from now until May 12, and features 31 paintings by the Scottish artist Sandra Ratcliffe.
Sandra started painting 15 years ago after a lengthy career as a journalist in Scotland. She says, ‘I had always loved art, so I decided to take up painting seriously. It wouldn’t have been possible to continue in journalism and devote time to art at the same time, so I left my former job and enrolled in two one-year courses at the Glasgow School of Art.’
Since then, Sandra has been depicting the landscapes around her home on the west coast of Scotland in her stunning acrylic paintings. After getting in touch with Cafe Arabia through friends, she is now bringing her work to Abu Dhabi.
Sandra draws inspiration from the landscape of her home country – especially the appearance and effects of the sun, as hinted at in the title of the exhibition. Many of the paintings in this collection highlight the sun’s rays, or feature sunlight as the focal point in the centre of the composition.
Sandra’s relationship with the Scottish landscape serves as the subject matter for her work. ‘I paint in plain air when the weather is in my favour,’ she explains. ‘Otherwise I sketch and take photographs, then carry out the works in my studio overlooking the Ayrshire coast.’
Looking at Sandra’s work, two of the most distinct aesthetic qualities are the bright colours and textured surface, which bring the wild wind and water to life. She uses bright blues and greens for water and strong pinks and purples for sunsets, taking natural colours and saturating them to create depth and definition, which elevate the paintings from copies of life into creative interpretations.
If it’s her use of colour that makes Sandra’s depiction of sunlight glow, then it is her manipulation of texture that makes the ocean spray of Scottish waves come to life in her work. She says, ‘Many of my paintings are impasto, which is a technique where paint is laid on the surface of the canvas in very thick layers, enough for the viewer to clearly see the brush strokes and palette knife strokes. I use many layers of paint before I am happy with the finished work. This can take several days. I use acrylics because I like the texture I can create with that medium without waiting months for a painting to dry, like I would if I used oils.’
Although Sandra’s landscapes are recognisable locations to those who know the area, she does not sketch on the canvas before she paints. Instead she builds the composition solely through the use of acrylics. This technique, along with her dramatic colour palette, gives her pieces an almost abstract appearance.
Like many artists, Sandra looks to other painters for her own enjoyment and for inspiration and guidance. She admires many fellow Scottish artists – particularly the Scottish Colourists, a group of painters who developed a post-impressionist style that featured vibrant colours. Of the living artists in Scotland today, Sandra enjoys the work of Davy Brown, David Cook, Helen Turner and Marion Drummond. The influence of these artists is evident in the bold, bright colours that Sandra uses in her landscapes.
Sandra’s paintings are all for sale, starting at Dhs2,500. Her 80cm x 80cm paintings are priced at Dhs3,500. Purchases will help a good cause as all proceeds from the sale of paintings will be donated to the Breathing Numbers charity, a UAE-based organisation led by Muna Harib, which was set up to help Syrian refugees.
Free. See Inspired By The Light from now until May 12. Cafe Arabia, between Al Karama and Airport Road (02 643 9699).