Fields of Marks
The Work of Charlotte Harker by Cherry Smyth

'The ripples on the beach and the veins in the rocks on the mountain show the same signature.'
Thomas A. Clark, from Distance and Proximity

Charlotte Harker's intimate landscapes offer momentary visits to the countryside, inviting us elsewhere to re-experience the spaciousness and distance of our last long look at open space, at a horizon without buildings, without people. These are places of low drama, the gentle desolation of the Yorkshire moors or the Northumberland coast. Charlotte is drawn to landscapes where flat land runs into a vast sky or where grassy fields become pebbled beaches become a rippling sea.

Each intricate drawing, whether on canvas or paper, traces the change of matter, the interchange of elements: the erosion of a bank of marram grass; the crazy paving bed of an estuary; the upright marks of groynes; the floating dots of waves; the tinier signatures of cirrus cloud. Charlotte’s line, interconnecting the visual detail, shows a deeper relation of interconnectedness. The dynamism and flow of his unique alphabet evoke the daily movement of tides, of wind, of weathers.

Her mark-making resembles the fine texture of lines and dots that feature in etchings or lithographs, giving the effect of a negative or reversed image, where the white gaps take on their own abstracted language within the figurative field. Her use of monochrome emphasises the structures she has selected to cohere the image, forcing the eye to perform the primeval act of orientating yourself. Our gaze grazes from a stretch of water to a hillock, follows the line of fence-posts, moves from an outcrop to a slope as if on a journey, near and far and back again.
The fields of marks, explains Charlotte, alter according to time and mood. The changes are very subtle like changes in a landscape. If I'm having a vulnerable day, everything tightens. I grew up in Lincolnshire and when I'm in a landscape, particular features - a shape, slope or surface catches my eye and comforts me and calms me down.

Inspired in part by 19th century Japanese Graphic Art and by contemporary Chinese printmakers like Yu Chengyou, Charlotte is also influenced by German painters: by Gerhard Richter's approach to landscape through photograph and memory and Anselm Kiefer's exploration of spatial landscapes.

By avoiding the fixed position and the seductiveness of colour, Charlotte creates a specific mood using the interplay between figurative outlines and the abstract shapes, which often take on textile patterns creating an embroidery of stitches. While most of the drawings and paintings concentrate on a distant horizon, Charlotte also explores treescapes, emphasising the vertical line. Against a busy geometry of branches, Charlotte foregrounds the bare tree trunks which seem to stand in for the human figure, so absent from the landscapes. Rooted, balanced and emerging from the marks on the ground, these trees articulate optimism and strength as well as an attentiveness that is hesitantly spiritual.

These drawings comfort without being sentimental, depicting a certain sought-for loneliness that is incredibly reassuring. Their remote views are both familiar and fresh, informed by and enriching a long tradition of landscape.