Ireland's Landscapes, Painted on Aluminium

Artists often choose aluminium for sculpture, but it can also serve as a canvas.
16 February, 2017
Daniel Chester has both a master's degree in the visual arts and a heart for a sustainable world.
His landscapes of his Irish homeland give testimony to both loves. His current exhibit celebrates the local environment, including County Leitrim, with paintings created directly on their metal surfaces.

"The choice of aluminium as a medium in which to paint on is a deliberate one," the artist said in a recent interview. "Although this material is not one of traditional use I find its coldness and dampness a direct connection to the landscapes and subjects I choose to paint."
The aluminium surface also enables Chester to show the process of brushstrokes and other techniques that are experimental in ways that are unique to each painting, he said.

What he does in his 'In pursuit of stillness' project is explore the beauty of landscapes and the respite they give from the busy lives people have today. Our mobile devices and our social media make relentless demands on human attention in what Chester called "a bombardment of technology."
The rural landscape offers the inspiration for "Ghost Tree," one of the oil on aluminium works that sets a bare tree against a purple sky, and "Nighttime Storm," a view of roiling clouds that evokes a sense of solitude and the stillness that Chester seeks. While "Into the Unknown" includes more pastels than the darker stormy tones, it captures the mists of western Ireland and shrouds the scene in mystery.

"The recurring theme within my work focuses on notions of disillusion with materialism, return to the natural world, death, destruction and resurrection," Chester explained. The themes are consistent with his commitment to the natural world, and what he calls the moral responsibilities of communities to the landscapes they share as a common good.

These include the parks, lanes, green spaces and walkways of cities and villages, as well as the rural landscapes in his current exhibit.
Image: HeadStuff
Chester has been painting on aluminium for several years, including 2015, which included a number of paintings that focused on botany and plant life in the bogs. "Turning of the Clocks" is painted on three separate aluminium ovals, with each panel reflecting the same dandelion across its life span, from the tight bud at its beginning to the wispy seed stage to its final dry demise.

The plant-focused collection also includes "Green Bogland Mist" and "Wild Red Forest," both colorful in their eponymous way but with more interesting angular lines in the latter. What's most consistent in the landscapes – from "Mayo Marshlands" to "Leitrim Lowlands," is that the sun never shines. The skies are often as cold and metallic as the canvas, and always brooding and moody even when the hard clouds of "Approaching Snow Storm" are lightened into the more ephemeral mists of "In Search of Lough Annay."
Chester, who also teaches art, said his current area of research looks at traditional landscape painting, with an emphasis on the influence of romantics on the rural landscape. He is interested in Caspar Friedrich, William Blake and German romanticism painting, as well as the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel.

Those influences, particularly as seen in Friedrich's work, are woven throughout Chester's themes, but the landscapes on aluminium are in keeping with the artist's passion for a new expression of Ireland.
Banner image: Daniel Chester