Artist Biography - Heather Duncan
Dynamic landscapes constructed out of blocks of colour, textures of paint and numerous gestures, accents and modulations; these are the means by which Heather Duncan expresses a highly personal view of her environment. Places take on a remarkable importance, in particular the rugged northern landscape of vast Pennine moorland, striking fells and crags, monumental castles, and e...xpansive coastlines.
Heather knows these locations intimately; they are her childhood and spiritual home and are profoundly connected to her artistic activity. This deeply felt association to these specific places directs her back to them time and time again, even when she is far from ‘home’ there is a calling that leads her to “return to these fells and crags daily, painting them as I feel them, as I remember them”.
Words sometimes appear incised into paint, lines from a song or poem for example, hinting at another level of connection, raising the possibility that the landscape has become a receptacle for a personal narrative.
Ideas might germinate over a period of time, perhaps years, before they become paintings, but also there are works that have come about as an immediate direct response. Sometimes it is the memory of a relatively brief experience, a moment of light, of thought, of spirit, that surfaces as a subject, at other times the landscape is an expression of a more extended journey or passage of time.
Traces of reworking, areas flooded with colour, animated marks scratched into wet paint, these paintings optimistically revel in their own physicality. Within the bold expressive colour, robust texture, and energetic line, echoes of moorland walls and paths emerge, spaces seem to rise and tumble, horizons shift euphorically, land becomes liquefied, and the sensation of moving through the landscape, energetically, excitedly, softly or pensively is evoked.
Thrilling, stirring and enthusiastic these paintings wholeheartedly affirm one of the most profound of all human characteristics, the sense of belonging.
Born in Yorkshire Duncan studied Landscape Architecture at Leeds Metropolitan University, graduating in 1988. In 1998 she moved to the US where she lived for two years. Drawn back home by her love of the landscapes of the North of England she began her career as an artist, exhibiting in the North and Midlands. By 2009 her work was reaching a national audience with exhibitions in London and placements in private collections in the UK, France, Germany, and the USA.
Heather is both a painter and a ceramicist, living and working in the village of Kirk Ireton, from her home studio which overlooks the Ecclesbourne Valley and Alport Heights. She finds watching the landscape change through the seasons and the skies changing through the day, a constant stream of inspiration. Individual artworks are drawn from a stream of consciousness, starting with the landscape but moving away from representation and becoming more abstract and expressive.
She enjoys spending time completely immersed in my painting and potting. Her regular contact with a small, strong network of artist friends and the fabulous community surrounding her home, means that Heather never feels like an artist in isolation despite spending most of my day entirely alone.
As well as the landscape surrounding her, Heather practice is informed by the poetry of Jo Bell and Norman McCaig, and the writing of Nan Shepherd, Robert MacFarlane, Roger Deakin and Kathleen Jamie. She also finds inspiration in her favourite artworks, such as Piet Mondrians’ Evolution Triptych, and Giacometti’s painting ‘Caroline’.
Heather states that she doesn’t just have one narrow creative outlet, but applies her creativity to everything in life. She is constantly creating, whether that is in the garden, in the home, or in different professional roles. Whilst painting is her main creative output, and she exhibits her paintings and call herself a painter, she can identify with a broad range of art practices. Heather has a fond love for poetry, music, sculpture, painting - using inspirations from these sources in her creative practice. Whilst her own work is predominantly abstract, and many of the artists she admires are abstract painters, she does not identify with just one art form.
Heather hopes that people will connect with her work, hoping people are moved by feelings about the landscapes that inspire them or the experiences within those landscapes. She hopes others gain the deep and strong connection with her paintings, which encompass her feelings for the expansive open moorlands of the north of England of her childhood.