Anne James takes the plunge into Rebecca McLynn and Richard Fox’s work at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery

This gem of an exhibition is at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Summertown, and brings together seven of McLynn’s dramatic land and seascapes with three of Fox’s quite beautiful sculptures.

Fox who is based in West Oxfordshire, is probably best known for his coiling wooden sculptures, for which he uses mathematical calculations to achieve the precision needed for each piece. What is on show here is a new departure for Fox; work in Italian blue alabaster. He describes the way he works as a long journey during which he looks to create ‘something that did not exist before today’. This he has certainly achieved in Cirrus I, Cirrus II and Cirrus III. Cirrus is the Latin word for a curling lock of hair and in that context it is used to classify a genus of curling, rounded atmospheric cloud. These clouds are generally white or light grey, and are characterised by their delicate formation and often visible repeated interaction with the surrounding light and the skies in which they move and floats. It is these qualities that Fox has quite brilliantly managed to capture in each sculpture.

Cirrus I is comprised of a tactile and protective curve on the outside of which the sheen and sparkle which is part of the rock itself is encouraged to celebrate its sheer beauty. And the tiny fault lines it contains, which briefly interrupt the flow of the piece as a whole, provide punctuation points that momentarily arrest the eye. Cirrus II, illustrated here, captures an extraordinary sense of movement, similar to that of an impending weather front or a wave about to break onto an unsuspecting shore. Again Fox has managed to use the exquisite properties the alabaster possesses to give strength and beauty to the piece. Cirrus III is a quieter piece, its supine elliptical shape mirroring both sea and sky.

Each piece speaks to and works beautifully with McLynn’s complex and compelling portraits of the wild, raw landscapes she loves to explore. She travels regularly to the west coast of Ireland, the far North West of Scotland, the Atlantic islands of the Hebrides, arctic Norway and California’s Big Sur. Doing this in order to paint the untamed huge land and seascapes in which she loves to immerse herself and which she hopes will speak to others whose hearts, like hers, are uplifted by the massive uncompromising vistas that defy domestication or human domination.

Much of her work is in oil on canvas, such as in Night Tide, illustrated here, where deep compelling turquoises and translucent greens are separated by night-time darkness above them from deep skies with drifting cirrus cloud formations, all capped by a cloak of impending darkness.

And Atlantic Tide, also illustrated, where McLynn positively celebrates the huge expanse of the ocean, starting with a tentative tide approaching and lapping the shore, followed by the breakers, their beaded foamed crests belying the overall strength and power of the sea. As does the seemingly tranquil water beyond that draws the eye to a distant horizon, a wide open sky and the possibilities of adventure or simply losing oneself in the enormity of both sky and ocean.

Back in her studio, she uses her location sketches to inform her work on the finished pieces. In three of these, hung triptych like together, she uses mixed media to provide emphasis and depth to each. By combining photographic prints with wax which she surrounds and overlays in oils she manages to create a most extraordinary intensity that transports one to the place itself. The first Mountain Tarn, focuses on a dark lake, in which is sited a diminutive island enhanced by the clear black outlines of grasses — all of which speak of the dark nature of peat and bogs and whose dark secretive nature she sets against a turbulent sky comprised of petrol blues. The second, Silver Tide Study, possess the same intensity but is altogether a lighter piece. It celebrates the movement of the silvery waves against a dark foreground that appears to want to inveigle itself into the heart of the piece. And in the third Silver Tide Study II, the tide has gone out leaving a curving expanse of silver and taupe sand, with a hint of sea and foam to the fore and an elusive dappled sky to the rear.

McLynn’s and Fox’s work have a wonderful combined synergy, which speaks loud and clear of the power and beauty of the natural world and the materials that make it up. And of the energy, restlessness and overwhelming strength they possess, something that mankind can only reflect on and rejoice in and over which it has ultimately no control. The exhibition comes highly recommended.

Rebecca McLynn and Richard Fox
Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Summertown
Open Monday to Saturday until February 22