Dan Llywelyn Hall - Between Day and Night - Summer Exhibition 2014
Introduction for Dan Llywelyn Hall
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston
Dan Llywelyn Hall follows a tradition which first flourished amid the dreams of
the Romantics. He is part of that visionary lineage of painters for whom the world
was suffused by the mind of its seer, for whom landscape became an embodiment
of human feeling and thought. It was this spirit of immanence which such British
artists asTurner and Constable were aiming to capture;which their succession of
followers from Samuel Palmer through John Piper and Graham Sutherland to Paul
Nash all set out to evoke.
Reflections of such predecessors may be glimpsed in Llywelyn Hall’s work along
with those of other formative influences as varied as the impetuous passions of
Chaim Soutine or the simplified patterns of Henri Matisse. But, drawn together in
the bright, sometimes hazily nebulous, sometimes wilfully jarring, surfaces of
Llywelyn Hall’s paintings, they work to conjure a fresh, idiosyncratic and
fundamentally modern mood.
Llywelyn Hall works rapidly, often out of doors in fast drying gouache or acrylic.
But even when it comes to oil works done in the studio, few take more than two
or three sittings to complete.This immediacy is important. Llywelyn Hall builds up
his images with wandering lines and thin washes of colour, bold swipes of bright
pigment and big all-but unmodulated blobs. He is not interested in detailing the
minutiae. Rather he sets out to capture a sense of atmosphere afresh. What his
paintings show is not the world which surrounds us as a camera might record it,
but a landscape as it captures a moment of experience. Llywelyn Hall paints a
world haunted by his own memories.
Is memory everything we keep or everything that we lose? The experiences that
shape us are quintessentially transient. And yet they are always fixed in a place,
the artist explains. When we recall them we recall also their location. These are
not just places he paints, but specific moments.
Sometimes he highlights their transience. A figure is caught poised in a momentary
mid-handstand balance; a half-smoked cigarette smoulders on a window sill. These
are images, the artist reminds us, of fleeting fragments of time. But more frequently,
this awareness of time’s passing is more broadly pervasive.The world is mutable.
It is altered and adapted by each changing age. Llywelyn Hall is no picturesque
painter, blotting out traces of the present as he searches for scenic perfections.
Rather he tends to prefer modern subjects from the wind farms which have been
planted like giant daisies upon the moors and the mountain-sides of his native
Wales through the final flight of Concorde as it cuts through an autumn sunset to
television images of the Iraq conflict taking place on the very spot where the vast
ziggurat of Ancient Babylon once reared its great stone head.
Llywelyn Hall focuses on his own personal response. He picks out those aspects
of a scene which most strike him with strong outlines or bright colours or glowing
touches of light. He shows us a world as it is shaped by his feelings and moods.
His Plantation in Red, for instance, a vivid image from a Mustique holiday depicts
an open space between serried ranks of trees. “The island felt pretty barren to
me, just lots of wealthy houses that amounted almost to nothing,” Llywelyn Hall
explains; “but I went to this spot to try to clear my head.” The viewer taps into his
mood as he watches the way in which the clutter is swept to the sides of the
canvas, leaving only calming expanses of emptiness at the picture’s core. Or he
senses the strange, almost mystic attraction, of the eerily radiant wind turbines
which gather together to create an electric force field.
Llywelyn Hall’s images belong to those elusive hinterlands which lie somewhere
between the ostensible subjects of his pictures - the trees, stones or mountains,
the sunbathing girls or wind turbines or tents which he plonks down unabashedly
in the middle of his pictures - and the shadowy atmospheres which he conjures
around them through the way that he paints. Even as images emerge before the
eye, they dissolve back again into the landscapes of the mind.
It seems no accident that a recurrent motif in Llyweln Hall’s work is a winding
path looping its way like some meandering perspective line towards the
furthermost horizons. This is an artist who leads his spectators beyond the frame
of his pictures into a land of imagination, into a place in which the looker may
wander and wonder and eventually get lost.
Rachel Campbell Johnston (Times Art critic)