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Common Ground

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In November 2019, Andrew Roberts and Benjamin Hope will present Common Ground, a two-man show featuring approximately 60 works painted en plein air in various locations around the UK and Europe. Both Andrew and Ben strive to ‘paint the day’ – its transient moments and moods - one of several shared motivations that unite their work.

For Andrew, painting is about suggestion rather than statement. Favouring expansive, rural scenes that feature a lot of resting area and a notable absence of figures, there is a looseness and an abstract quality to his work. He looks to the Blues for a point of comparison: ‘A piece of art and a piece of really grungy Blues should be the same: always on the brink of collapse. In any Blues melody, there is always one note that holds it all together. That is how I want my paintings to be.’

Andrew’s method is reminiscent of that practised by Frank Auerbach when it comes to applying paint to canvas. The textured surface that Andrew creates is but a ‘thin veneer’ in comparison to Auerbach’s luxuriously impasto work, but he strives to lay down paint with the same looseness and freedom. Painting plein air channels spontaneity into this looseness as Andrew finds himself having to respond and react to what is going on around him. He describes himself as an artist who paints the day over the subject, prioritising mood over detail, something that he would find impossible to do as a studio-based painter.

Like Andrew, Ben likes to paint outdoors: ‘Painting from life is my modus operandi – I love the immediacy, the time pressure and the liveliness of the result’. He will sometimes wander around for a long time until he feels ‘that tug’ - perhaps prompted by an interesting bit of light or a juxtaposition of vertical lines - which tells him that a particular moment within a particular scene is ready to become a painting.

Though his paintings have a realist sensibility, Ben is increasingly interested in making the viewer’s eye more involved in reading the work through dynamic and reactive marks. He can embrace detail in bustling street scenes, and then reject it in a pared down view of the Thames. With some of these more sparse compositions, there are hints of abstraction and it is here that Ben and Andrew find their common ground.

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