Sarah Gillespie : A Love As Old As Water, Beaux Arts, London

Sarah Gillespie’s works on paper depict, in simple ink and charcoal, ghostly landscapes and images of flora and fauna reminiscent of photograms, heavily saturated photographs or even paintings. She is fascinated by the play of light and dark, the boundaries between solid and liquid and how these change when drawn, and the ways in which a flurry of tangled lines can knit together. Her stunning painting is currently on display at Beaux Arts, London, until 28 February.

Gillespie focuses on the minutae – the hair on a bee’s leg, or the tender fluff of the feathers of a moorhen’s belly, or a single ripple on the surface of a moonlit estuary – the small miracles of natural life that surround everyday life are reproduced with intensity and sharp focus. In smudged charcoal strokes she communicates the delicate movement of the wind, the warming effect of the sun and the swift movement of storm clouds.

Gillespie explains her journey into art: “My father – a first generation Irish immigrant – took one look at me and said, ‘well, if you’re going to be an artist, you’d better go to Paris. I remember being bundled into the car at 4.00 am one morning, with my portfolio in the back and setting off for Calais. (…) I don’t remember much about any of them (the interviews) until we drove up the long laurel fringed drive in Verneuil Sur Seine to the Atelier Neo-Medici. Verneuil is in the banlieue, just outside the city itself, on the way to Giverny. The house was one of those huge timber framed Norman piles and I could smell the linseed and turpentine from outside as I climbed out of the car. What happened next was falling in love.”

This exhibition is a rare opportunity to see a number of her works in one setting, and these images in particular have a stillness and quietude which marks them out from the speed and energy of previous works.

Sarah Gillespie : A Love As Old As Water, 29 January – 28 February, Beaux Arts, 48 Maddox Street, London, W1S 1AY.

1. Sarah Gillespie, Swan at Stackpole (Upon a Darkening Flood) 2014, Watercolour and Charcoal, 638gsm Saunders Waterford Paper, 40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.5 cm).
2. Sarah Gillespie, A Love as Old as Water, Brown and Black Charcoal on 356gsm Saunders Waterford Paper, 26 x 40 inches (66 x 101.5 cm).