Painter Alan Ansell brings an open, light-filled expanse of nature to his landscapes and urban street scenes. View more artwork on his website.
I am a landscape artist based in the Occitanie region of southwest France. A lifelong “scribbler,” I took my first serious steps on the professional art ladder in 2007 when I left the United Kingdom behind in search of a more accommodating lifestyle.
My paintings are not intended to carry dramatic, paradigm-shifting messages or commentary. That is work for other artists. I focus on locating the permanent within the impermanent. I draw subtle (or not-so-subtle) nuances out of the ever-shifting present, using what is near to hand.
As the seasons change, bringing new colours and patterns, heat and cold, rain and cloud, the land retains its form but the crops, trees, rivers and streams evolve. Even buildings are affected by time—they are renovated or fall down or are replaced by new ones.
The profound can be found within the everyday. I am happy for my paintings to offer refuge, away from insistent chatter around “meaning” that pervades much contemporary art.
The landscape can speak for itself. A painting can be a place for quiet reflection or restoration.
I work in oil, sometimes with acrylic underpainting but usually oil alone. I enjoy oil’s greater flexibility as a medium. My first few years here were spent trying unsuccessfully to extend acrylic paints under the fierce Mediterranean sun, something I quickly realised was fruitless. Acrylic is wonderful stuff, but oil still reigns supreme.
I make extensive use of the camera, which I’ve always seen as an extremely helpful tool for the visual artist. With the surge in smartphone use, the digital image has almost entirely supplanted traditional photography. I enjoy exploring the options opened up by phone camera technology, such as distorted perspective, deeply exaggerated values or boosted colour saturation.
Human perception has always been shaped by environment. Our easy appropriation of portable devices now provides rich pickings for painting. Despite feeling I’m considerably restrained in my current use of a camera, future work may see me move further away from constraints imposed by the more formal approach to picture making gained through a self-education in art.
I also suspect that, with the whirlwind development of ideas in painting since the early years of the twentieth century, intriguing possibilities in colour or form may have been lost in the wider sweep of change, before such avenues could be fully explored.
My work could be described in one sense as unapologetically traditional. Not just because when we look at paintings we don’t always want to be challenged, but because I am far from having exhausted the potential of traditional techniques and approaches. Within that framework, my work is constantly evolving.