Alan Hardcastle
An Exhibition of recent paintings and drawings
'Roots Tracks and Waterways'
shown at Smith Art Gallery - Brighouse HD6 2AF
April 25 - June 20 2009

 

Old Trackway in Snow by Alan Hardcastle
View under a Bridge by Alan Hardcastle

This is very much an exhibition of Yorkshire places, predominantly the Pennine areas south and west of the once prosperous woollen districts of the West Riding. Alan Hardcastle grew up in Halifax and now lives in Bradford - a local artist finding inspiration in and expressing his response to his native landscape. These works combine bleak landscapes, social history, abundant woods and wild beauty. They show tracks through ancient woodlands, across moors and the man-made waterways that divide the land all presaging the influence that generations of people have had on the landscape.

 

Pennine Hill Farm by Alan Hardcastle

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Edge of the Moors by Alan Hardcastle

 

There is a strong sense that the artist knows his landscape intimately, that his roots and his history are here. This is northern realism where grey is many colours and where the change to green and then to brown is imperceptible, along with the ever present, heavy Yorkshire skies. He brings all these colours and subjects together through a range of media: charcoal, pastel, graphite-crayon, oils, watercolour, acrylic and combinations of pairs of them - used in a variety of ways on different backgrounds and with different textures - some implied and some actual.

 

Split Oak by Alan Hardcastle
Old Trackway by Alan Hardcastle
Judy's Bridge by Alan Hardcastle

 

Many local people will recognise the places. Judy Woods is one of Alan's favourites, tightly squeezed between Halifax and Bradford. Here he explores Tolkienian split oaks, tortured roots and tangled branches through the use of light and shade. There is Old Trackway in charcoal and Dark Trackway in pastel. There are several scenes of the woods in snow where the trees in the background are captured with remarkable delicacy in contrast to the dark intensity of the bridge and the even darker, murky water, edged with snow.

 

Derelict Farm Heptonstall Moor by Alan Hardcastle
 
Walking the Dogs by Alan Hardcastle

 

Hill farms and tracks are another favourite theme, not for Alan the softer Dales or the wealthy North York moors: this is West Yorkshire's harsher, wilder landscape with farms built like strongholds, isolated lumps of habitation and farm buildings, huddling close together against the elements. Here we have dry stonewalls and empty ruins, snow covered tracks and an absence of humanity.  Derelict Farm above Heptonstall epitomises this theme: tumbling stones, wooden props, roofless buildings and sparse vegetation - a scene so often found by walkers on these hills.

 

Running Man by Alan Hardcastle
Narrow Canal by Alan Hardcastle
Queen Street Bridge by Alan Hardcastle

 

 

'Waterways' is another key theme in this exhibition and Alan captures the dereliction of defunct canals and abandoned towpaths that appear ominous and threatening at night. Long, narrow paintings mirror the shapes of the canals and the buildings.  There are deep, dark reflections of the industrial landscape in the canal basin and almost photographic detail in Queen Street Bridge where the density of soft grey Yorkshire stone is almost palpable.

 

 

Dawn over Nab Farm by Alan Hardcastle

 

Sometimes, he presents the same scene in a series of images using different media. In Dawn over Nab Farm, he captures the eeriness of early dawn light in pastel and charcoal;

 

Nab Farm after Rain by Alan Hardcastle
 
 
in Rain and Sun, a charcoal drawing, the same farm takes on a very different, and very Yorkshire, aspect as the rain drives down while the sun shines through;a different season and the freshness of the air can be felt in the watercolour, Nab Farm after Rain.
 

This exhibition is broad in its content and its styles - there is something here that will appeal to everyone.  And for those who collect original artworks there is the added satisfaction of taking home a work of art that is skilfully produced and expertly presented and framed.

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