Albemarle Gallery presents ‘To the Horizon’, an exhibition of paintings by Philip Muñoz. This is a series of pictures that document specific English pastoral landscapes. Topographically accurate and forensically representational, they resonate with a sense of specific time and place.
He paints the elemental components of water, land and sky. They are compassed by an ever-present horizon, the fundamental hinge for composition; a divider between ‘here’ and ‘there’. The locations are seen from aerial perspective, that is, from a somewhat elevated viewpoint, which emphasises distance, both material and metaphorical. In order to see clearly, this painter adopts a bird’s eye view.
The weather is bright and clouds scud across turbulent skies. Sea meets the land; rivers meander towards estuaries; boundaries are defined; trees, hedgerows and pastures plot their variegated textures across the West Country plain. The painter makes a thorough reckoning of what he sees. All is included in a visual account offered up for our delight.
This a skilful technical exercise: a palette of subtle greens, blues, greys and earth colours accumulates to articulate the particular visual fact of the terrain. Accomplished handling describes the distinct forms of wood, cloud and crop. Attention to the qualitative detail of light, contour and surface place the viewer at the site, at a certain time and in such a climate. Muñoz takes pains to be a master of his craft.
These are tamed and cultivated landscapes. They are not wild and could not be described as sublimely Romantic. There is no awe in the face of nature’s terror here. Peaceful and controlled, the subject of good husbandry, they are shaped by the hand of centuries of ownership and material human influence. Muñoz identifies a modern-day idyll, a contemporary iteration of a classical ideal, where man moulds a model of nature so he can sit at ease in it.