There’s no question about it: We live in a fast-paced world. On any given day, we send and receive hundreds of emails. At the click of a button, news is instantly shared around the world. No longer do you have to make a trip to the bank to cash a cheque; you can simply take a photo with your smartphone to make an instant deposit. And that’s even assuming someone actually wrote you a cheque in the first place, rather than sending a payment by direct bank transfer, ApplePay or some other payment app. While true that these things have generally yielded ease or convenience, sometimes I cannot help but wonder if we have too quickly forgotten the charms of a simpler, less complicated time.
British artists Edward Hersey, Gordon Lees and Amanda Jackson must ask themselves the same question, for their immersive paintings often pay tribute to the pleasures and charms of days gone by. Engaging with the themes of memory and nostalgia, the paintings of these three artists reach into the very depths of our souls in a matter of seconds, sparking an immediate, and often emotive, response. In those fleeting moments, we are free to disentangle ourselves from the machine of the modern world, enjoy simple pleasures and indulge in our own thoughts, feelings and memories.
Of these three artists, Amanda Jackson is perhaps the most direct in her approach. Her relatable paintings of children and beloved childhood toys prompt an instant reminiscence, sending a host of memories surging to the forefront of our minds. Through her bright, light-drenched paintings, the experience of childhood, be it our own or that of a loved one, is joyously resurrected and relived. Though the years have slipped by, we smell the warm earth and freshly cut grass from our first garden once again. We feel the coarse, scraggly fur of our favourite, now threadbare, teddy. We hear the laughter and squeals of delight as we splash through the breaking waves of summer holidays long since concluded. In a single moment, time and its passing become utterly irrelevant.
|'Bear's Best Belongings' by Amanda Jackson|
The paintings of landscape artist Gordon Lees are equally as nostalgic. Building what, at times, seems a lost bridge between past and present, Gordon Lees devotedly captures England’s rapidly changing landscapes and communities to restore and preserve them for future generations. His paintings hark back to a time before out-of-town shopping centres, when the village high street was the heart of merchantry and automobiles were more akin to luxury than necessity. To a time when people read a morning newspaper and the butcher, baker and fishmonger were on a first-name basis. With a softness that mirrors the blurred edges of memory, Gordon romantically captures the whimsical charm of days gone by, honouring the traditional lifestyles and values so frequently forgotten in today’s face paced world.
|'A Summer's Eve' by Gordon Lees|
Of course, when paying tribute to days gone by, perhaps no other artist is more worthy of celebration than the renowned British landscape artist Edward Hersey. Romantically rustic yet exquisitely detailed, Hersey’s work radiates fine, classical beauty and a subtle sense of longing. Brick by immaculately painted brick, Hersey builds the familiar, inviting world of the British countryside; a world we know well but have so frequently failed to, or simply forgotten to, engage with for quite some time. In an instant, we find ourselves ambling down quiet country lanes or through fields of verdant green, shepherded only by the occasional, gentle curve of a barnyard arch or the rolling line of a dry stone wall. In short, we rediscover a kind of hushed, understated peace we had thought lost long ago.
|'Muker, North Yorkshire' by Edward Hersey|
It is this stripped back sense of nostalgia, peace and rediscovery that brings us back to the work of Amanda Jackson, Gordon Lees and Edward Hersey time and time again. Through their unique perspectives, we are gently reminded of and revived by the fact that the simple pleasures of days gone by needn’t stay lost forever. In the same way that beauty can always be found by those who look, the uncomplicated charms of the past may still be enjoyed by those who take a moment to pause. All it takes is a little bit of time—and perhaps—just a bit of encouragement from a piece of art that leads the way.