Watch the moon at night from a boat at sea, and you may notice that its light appears to run in a glittering path straight towards you alone. You feel yourself specially favoured, honoured by this silver carpet between horizon and horizon. Turn 180º and that path is nowhere to be seen. It is a simple and somewhat chastening natural effect, but typical of how the sea can stimulate and intrigue observers: the ways it reflects and bends light, its paradoxical power and lack of solidity, its changing humours and endless capacity for interpretation.
Making Waves, the new exhibition at Broughton Street's Union Gallery, features ten contemporary artists with as many approaches to the sea and techniques for exploring them. There are no duds, but for reasons of space just five favourites are mentioned here with a recommendation to view the rest for yourself (exhibition runs until 11 April).
Marion Kennedy's studies have impressed at previous shows here, and one work in particular has grown on this reviewer. Her work is clearly representational, but use of mixed media and the way these let her distress and rework their surfaces allows her to suggest both physical textures in the portrayed world and a more abstract interest in the rhythm of the image and the physical process of its creation. 'Rocky Coast' (above right, mixed media, 44 x 38cms) is, I think, brilliant, and every bit as interesting for its artificiality as for any attempt at realism.
Dominique Cameron is an animator, photographer and painter who lives on the island of Sanday. Place – experienced and personally understood space – is important in her work, with each painting documenting the relationships which emerge from these careful examinations. The images she produces are strangely contradictory: intimately charged at one level, spectacular depictions of elemental forces at another. 'Edge of the Bay' (above) shows a croft hunkered between contending energies of earth, sky and sea. As clouds, waves and an almost molten shore dissolve, the croft suggests a place of safety, a state of mind, a moment of humble determination in the midst of storm.
The spacious, amber, Caithness landscapes of Hazel Cashmore have proved popular at this gallery in the past, but in the three seascapes on show now her range of colours is more subdued: mostly cool greys, whites and blues. These paintings are not so much of the weather as in it. 'Misty Headland' (right) is wonderfully unresolved, rain and mizzle seeming to drift from the canvas to envelop the viewer.
Glasgow-based Irishman Ian Rawnsley is similarly restrained, and similarly adept at evoking ocean in motion. I particularly liked his 'Night Seas', with green waves and spindrift blowing in before a gale; and, in 'Cellardyke' (below right), a rain-sodden horizon of sensuous grey softness.
Finally, Beth Robertson Fiddes's 'Looking North, Last Light' (bottom) encapsulates another attraction of the sea, not just for artists but for adventurers, dreamers and romantics everywhere. In this work, she captures the moment when a wave – spent but still seething – withdraws from a beach as if to regather its strength before another assault. The water foams and hisses, the darkening sea beyond is vastly deep and patient.
This is a painting about a particular spot at a particular moment in time, but something in the curvature of the horizon, the shift from day to night, suggests a more general significance: in one wave on one beach one can read the globe. AM