A Northern Sensibility

The gallery will be curating an exhibition, 'A Northern Sensibility' at the Strarta Art Fair, the Saatchi Gallery, London from October 10th -13th 2013.

To some in the art world, the term 'Northern School' evokes a rosy nostalgia for the smoking chimneys of Lancashire cotton towns, groups of flat-capped men playing pitch and toss, lines of washing in cobbled alleyways and the like. Such art has its devotees, often eager to discover 'the next L.S.Lowry'.

Here, the North is quite different; something more akin to C.S.Lewis's idea of 'northerness', a word he coined to describe feelings he had as a child of 'intense, heart-breaking longing'. In one instance, he experienced these feelings when reading Longfellow's Norse Ballad, 'Tegner's Drapa', with 'huge regions of northern sky, cold, pale, remote'. For Lewis though, 'northerness' was more a spiritual idea of an indefinable longing than a place on the map, and throughout his life, such 'joyful' moments were rare, random and fleeting.

Can this sense of 'northerness' be drawn from looking at certain kinds of art? For me, geography does play a part, with distant grey horizons, long shadows, raking light on the sides of walls and through the windows of empty rooms, endless winters inducing a sense of isolation and melancholy all signifying some kind of northern sensibility. In the hands of great artists, such metaphors elicit paradoxical feelings of existential angst and reverie, rarely found in the art of more benign latitudes. Sometimes Wilhelm Hammershoi's Copenhagen rooms, Tacita Dean's films and L.S.Lowry's empty landscapes have this quality of 'northerness',as do many works by the lesser known artists John Alvaro Caldas, Astrid Kruse Jensen, David Gledhilll, Kate Davies and others whose paintings and photography form the basis of this small exhibition.

Of course one cannot force the issue. The idea holds true that the harder you look for something, the more elusive it becomes. 'Northerness' is best found by chance. We can only nudge people towards it.

Art fair details: Stand 6E. Strarta Art Fair. London 2013.
Venue. Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ. King's Road. London SW3.
Dates. Thursday 10th October to Sunday 13th October.
For admission tickets, please contact the gallery.

  • Bodyshop by Andrew Tift.
    Acrylic on Nissan Micra Car Door. 1995. 98cm x 110cm.
  • Pudding Lane by Stephen Harwood.
    Acrylic on canvas. 1998. 110cm x 96cm
  • Untitled Landscape by Thorvald Hagedorn-Olsen (1902-1996).
    Oil on canvas. circa 1950. 50cm x 65cm
  • Kasse. by Astrid Kruse Jensen.
    C-print. 2002. 50cm x 60cm. from an edition of 10
  • Untitled by John Alvaro Caldas.
    Oil on canvas. 152cm x 184cm
  • Untitled by John Alvaro Caldas.
    Oil on canvas. 152 x 184cm.

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