Paintings of Lionel Playford

Paintings of Lionel Playford

Lionel Playford: Painter

Artist Statement

I am a landscape painter living and working in the North Pennines. I first started painting landscapes in the 1970s and, after a detour into shipbuilding, returned to painting full-time in 1987.

The skies, moors, valleys and streams illuminated by sun and moon are the stimulus for many of my recent studio paintings but they wouldn’t mean much if they weren’t informed by the outdoor experience of walking and drawing. I draw in the landscape all year round so I understand it as a rhythmically changing whole, changing by the hour with the clouds and cloud shadows, changing by the day with the weather, by the month with the seasons and by the years with the climate. This essential reality of change in sky and land underpins my emotional and intellectual responses in paint.

The drawings I make outdoors are glimpses of the world seen and felt with a genuinely mindful concentration, expressions of my bodily experience of being out in the weather-world taking it all in through the senses. A poet like Wordsworth might do the same with words on the page but we have walking in common. When I start a painting in the studio the outdoor drawings help me to re-enter that space of experience but then the paintings take me on their own journey sometimes leading me far away from the starting point of an outdoor sketch. As such I rarely copy the design for a painting directly from a sketch, instead preferring to let the painting suggest its own possibility, allowing it to change often quite significantly in colour, composition and orientation, offering the work a space to breathe and become whatever it seems to want to be. In this way I hope to bring aspects of the landscape alive and not merely to copy or describe it in paint.

The paintings in this latest show have emerged over weeks, months and even years, mostly in oils. The use of oil paint allows me to create a second parallel abstract painting for each landscape painting in which the colours mixed for the landscape and left over on the palette and brushes are built up layer upon layer, applied in a deliberately unplanned sometimes accidental manner. These accumulations of colour and mark are like a jazz improvisation in which a formal structure is maintained, usually of horizontal bands, but during which at any moment a change can occur which moves the work into a surprising space of colour relation and spatial depth. This risky element of surprise is what often makes the best abstracts.

Lionel Playford
Aug 2019

See small selection of my landscape paintings at:

Latest MPhil  research posts:
Sky Gathering Lundy 2019 slide talk: