Artist Richard Gilbert

Painting Stumbling Chestnut by Richard Gilbert

‘Stumbling Chestnut’ (Trees-on-the-March) 46cm-x-61cm pencil on paper © Richard Gilbert 2023

I first met Richard Gilbert when I popped into Hereford Museum and Art Gallery in August 2021, where he was invigilating at his exhibition ‘Round the Year from Stonewall Hill: A Journey in Time and Space’. This exhibition featured ‘Round the Year from Stonewall Hill’ (also known as ‘Four Seasons on the Welsh Border’) by Mary Rennell (1901 to 1981). Twelve drawings in Chinese ink on rice paper (each 153 x 69 cm). All produced over a year from November 1967 to October 1968 from the back seat of her Mini. Exhibited in 1970 at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, which then purchased the 12 panels. After 50 years, they emerged from storage to make their long overdue debut in the county of their creation, Herefordshire. Mary Rennell lived at Rodd Court near Presteigne and loved depicting the Welsh Marches – its trees, landscape and old settlements. In these 12 panels, her magnum opus, she merges the techniques and potency of Chinese painting with her beloved borderland as subject.

Richard Gilbert’s paintings are a contemporary response to Mary Rennell’s depictions of Stonewall Hill. He created two calendar cycles of paintings about the same Stonewall Hill landscape during the pandemic lockdown. The larger cycle formed an installation of twelve canvases over 13 metres long surveying 360 degrees as seen from the Stonewall Hill staged over twelve months, commencing clockwise with January looking north towards Reeve’s Hill. Each composition is a pictorial invention that uses multiple viewpoints, a perspective scheme borrowed from the Chinese, as well as landmark features including distant hills. The whole is intended to capture the ebb and flow of colour and light, varying through the seasons and the rhythm of the earth.

During my visit to the gallery and chatting with Richard we realised that we were both working on the same project called ‘Apples & People’ a partnership between the Brightspace Foundation, National Trust in Herefordshire and the Museum of Cider. This digital platform explores the journey of the apple through forty-six ‘Apple Stories’, that connect the diverse history of the apple to humanity and culture, based upon the ‘Apple World Map’.

Richard and myself subsequently collaborated on a painting, photography and video commission for ‘Apples & People’ called ‘Spring Summer Autumn Winter‘ about ancient orchards in Herefordshire. He made 19 oil paintings of the orchards over a 12 month period. I photographed them and made a short video of them by animating them and adding a piece of music by Debussy, La fille aux cheveux de lin, which was recorded in the Bishops Palace at Hereford Cathedral by Alan Crumpler of Syrinx Records and played by Roger Nichols.

Our most recent collaboration has been ‘Ancient Trees in the Welsh Marches’, which is still in the embryonic stage and is a developing painting and photography project. Below is a selection of Richard’s paintings that he has made of Ancient Trees from Brampton Bryan Park in North Herefordshire that I have been using as inspiration for the photography strand of this work.

Phoenix Ancient Tree

Phoenix 75cmx55cm watercolour © Richard Gilbert 2023

The Owl Tree

‘The owl tree’ 75cmx55cm watercolour © Richard Gilbert 2023

Mammoth Ancient Tree

‘Mammoth’ 70cmx50cm watercolour © Richard Gilbert 2023

Winter Ancient Tree

‘Winter’ 70cmx50cm watercolour © Richard Gilbert 2023

Blind Pew Ancient Tree

‘Blind-Pew’ 75cmx55cm watercolour © Richard Gilbert 2023