Inshaw’s paintings are held in private and public collections, including: the Tate Britain, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Arts Council of Great Britain. He was previously a member of the Brotherhood of Ruralists, but left in 1983 and moved move to Clyro near Hay-on-Wye, where he has lived ever since. Studying at the Royal Academy Schools in London, he first became recognised as a pioneering artist of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s-70s. The year 1973 represented a turning point in his career, with his painting The Badminton being exhibited at the ICA Summer Studio exhibition. This propelled him to the forefront of public attention, winning him the critically acclaimed audience that he retains today.
Storm over Silbury Hill, oil on canvas, 30 x 30.
Awe at, fascination with, and a desire to in some small way trap, record, replicate the glories of nature seem to be more or less
universal. Millions of us travel the world each year to gawp at other people’s beauty spots. There is, we feel, something special,
something spiritual, something healing and whole-making in the finest landscapes. It is of course easy to ask just how much
‘unconscious intercourse with beauty’, as Wordsworth put it, you can really have as you queue to take your snap of Victoria Falls, say, or Mont Blanc, but the cynic is in a clear minority.
Water Meadow with Rooks, oil on canvas, 30 x 30.
Artists and poets down the centuries have attempted to express the
complicated human emotions that are inextricably bound up with our perception of natural beauty. Virgil’s Eclogues evoked the idyllic state of Arcadia in which shepherds lived in total harmony with their
environment, while countless artists – and one supreme poet – have let their imaginations loose on the Garden of Eden. The idea of happiness and human innocence cannot, it seems, be separated from a strong sense of place.
But it is manifestly true that neither as a species nor as individuals are we happy, far less innocent. The idyll is irretrievably locked and lost in the past:
Hay Bluff Moonlight, oil on canvas, 28 x 30.
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
River Kennet Reflection, oil on canvas, 46 x 46.
The popularity of AE Housman’s most famous poem comes, I would suggest, from its succinct articulation of something each of us feels: the poignant recognition of the passing of time, the inevitability of ‘lost content’ and ultimate mortality. The poem’s stroke of genius is, of course, ‘those blue remembered hills’.
Path at Stinsford, oil on canvas, 36 x 36.
Thomas Hardy had a whole remembered landscape – Wessex – that he made uniquely personal, and in the process, common to us all. Lost love, fleeting happiness, separation, the death of dear ones – for Hardy all are archived in landscape. ‘I had not thought what ghosts would walk/ With shivering footsteps to my tune.
Path at Stinsford, With Woman running oil on canvas, 36 x 36.
And with Hardy we arrive at one of our finest contemporary
landscape painters. David Inshaw has followed in Hardy’s footsteps, and indeed in this exhibition, has two pictures of Hardy’s path near the Hardy Cottage. It is typical of Inshaw to have painted the same picture twice, and for him to have placed a female figure running along one of the paths. Seen together, the pair evoke all the tantalising possibilities, and also the inescapable downside of choice: As Robert Frost put it in ’The Road Not Taken’:
Silbury Hill in the Moonlight, oil on canvas, 30 x 30.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
While Inshaw country overlaps Hardy territory, he has made his home for most of his life in Devizes in Wiltshire. Perhaps in no other county is it possible to commune so readily with England’s ancient past, to see, as it were, through the pylon-bedraggled, fume-miasma’d modern world, and walk in the footsteps of our long-lost ancestors: Stonehenge, Avebury, and, of particular attraction to Inshaw, Silbury Hill, in many ways the most mysterious of all.
Hardy’s Thrush, oil on canvas, 30 x 30.
Why did they build it, what was it for, what did it mean? The modern world, in its brisk, no-nonsense way, decided to take the lid off and, taking a cue from Polonius find ‘Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed/ Within the centre.’ Of course they found nothing and in the process very nearly destroyed an ancient monument that has been an integral part of the landscape from time immemorial.
West Bay with Helicopter, oil on canvas, 28 x 28.
Inshaw’s way is different: to look and see, to study and revere - and paint, again and again. Silbury, like the cliffs at West Bay, is always the same, but always different. The light changes, the mood changes, the tone changes, the emotional vibe changes. But one thing does not change – and that is Inshaw’s painstaking attention to detail and love of his subject implicit in every brush stroke.
West Bay with Pregnant Woman, oil on canvas, 28 x 28.
Many in the arts establishment cannot forgive a painter for seeing through (in both senses) the modern world. For those who kneel at the shrine of an unmade bed or a vitrine containing a dead animal, there can be no quarter given to an artist who refuses to ompromise his vision of England with pylons and cooling towers, motorways and shopping malls.
Studio at Clyro with Pussy Willow, oil on canvas, 30 x 30.
But I for one am very confident that long after the work of many of his lauded contemporaries has been discreetly trucked round to the
recycling depot, David Inshaw’s paintings will be giving both
pleasure and profound insights into the human condition to
generations as yet unborn.
Poet, playwright, broadcaster and biographer of W G Grace.
Buoyant, oil on canvas, 24 x 24.
Eve Peeing, oil on board, 8.5 x 8.5.
Leaping Cat, oil on canvas, 40 x 40.
1969 Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon
1972 Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
1975 Waddington Galleries, London
1976 Wren Gallery, Trinity College, Cambridge
1977 Wren Gallery, Trinity College, Cambridge
1978 Royal Pavilion Art Gallery, Brighton
1980 Waddington Galleries, London
1984 Waddington Galleries, London
1987 Devizes Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire
Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo
1989 Waddington Galleries, London
1994 Devizes Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire
1995 Theo Waddington Fine Art Ltd, London
The Old School Gallery, Bleddfa, Powys (21st Anniversary exhibition)
1996 The Annandale Gallery, Sydney, Australia
1998 Six Chapel Row Contemporary Art, Bath
Theo Waddington Fine Art Ltd, London
1999 Museum of Modern Art, Machynlleth, Wales
2000 Six Chapel Row Contemporary Art, Bath
2003 Royal West of England Academy (Friends and Influences)
2004 Agnew & Sons Gallery, London
2005 Narborough Hall, Norfolk
2006 Slader’s Yard, West Bay, Dorset
2008 The Millinery Works, London
Arts Council of Great Britain
City of Bristol Art Gallery and Museum
Department of the Environment
Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery
(Presented by the Contemporary Art Society)