David Wightman effortlessly moves between abstraction and representation. His constructed landscapes are striking and thought-provoking, occupying a space somewhere between reality and fiction. Inside this augmented reality, Wightman’s work is an astute observation of the current state of play.
With a visual language that encapsulates both positive and negative spaces, Wightman’s landscapes reject realism in favour of possibility. Although they never feature people, and evoke a sense of isolation, their minimalistic stance is defiant. Through a bold colour palette, Wightman tempts the imagination, ultimately demonstrating the potential of colour in works such as Teton (2012) and Behemot (2011). In Teton the river is so dramatically green, powerfully dictating an immediate contrast. This is the defining moment in which Wightman’s work transcends distant mountains and serene lakes, becoming something visceral and otherworldly.
Using wallpaper and acrylic, it cannot be denied that Wightman’s works are full of texture, moving his practice beyond landscape painting, and giving it physicality. As one of his signature materials, wallpaper plays a key role in his oeuvre. He began working with it over a decade ago and, like a faithful friend, it has progressed with him from abstract paintings that politely nod to Kenneth Noland and Ad Reinhardt, to beautiful landscapes that pay homage to Caspar David Friedrich, Gerhard Richter, and, in some ways, Andy Warhol. Wightman’s work sits within many cultural and historical disciplines, but there is a redeeming critical distance that distinguishes his work from paintings of the past.
However, there’s more to the wallpaper; Wightman precisely hand cuts each piece, delicately layering the paper onto the canvas. Evoking domesticity within this realm, Wightman’s work negotiates boundaries, pushing landscapes in a new and exciting direction, which takes viewers on an intense and personal journey. The paper itself recalls the artist’s childhood home in Stockport in the 1980s, exuding a bilateral mix of nostalgia and aspiration.
In today’s visual culture, there are few restrictions, which often creates bodies of work without cohesion; however with Wightman this concern is never called into question. His interdisciplinary approach and commitment to painting’s independence is refreshing and, in many ways, inspiring. In a genre with a determined meaning, Wightman provokes questions about society, reality, invention, and truth. These mountains represent an idealised place - one of serenity, purity, and devoid of human contact - but there is tension because Wightman inadvertently lulls us into a false sense of security. Where are these landscapes? It’s a question he’s continuously asked, but a bigger question ensues: does it really matter?
You must spend time with Wightman’s paintings; on the surface they are beautiful and intricate, but like the layers they are made from, there is so much depth to these works – they contemplate not only artifice, but also the natural versus the man-made. His combination of craft and skill redefines genres and blurs meaning.
Cherie Federico, 2012
Editor, Aesthetica Magazine