Review

 

Evening Departure_from_Stornoway

 

Story Behind the Picture by Eilidh Whiteford.  

 

 

The Turneresque qualities of 'Evening Departure from Stornoway' by renowned artist Vega are simply one of the wonderful passion-evoking aspects of this striking image.

 

Sparked by a visit to the island port by tall ships, Vega has truly captured the harsh essence of sailing upon the troubled, broiling seas whipped into a frenzy by discordant squalling winds. The artist, who is herself a keen sailor, signs her works Vega out of respect for her own boat and the safe passage it has afforded on numerous journeys. And it is this familiarity of the sea which she believes indulges her works with a sense of realism and emotion that can only come from actual experience. 'Everything I paint is very related to me, and I paint from my own experiences,' she explained. 'I think, as an artist, you need  to have experience of something to relate it through a work. Someone once asked  me how to paint chickens because that is what she wanted to paint. The first  thing I asked her was if she had handled one, because you have to know what it is like to handle something, to feel how it moves and works. If you know how a boat will react in the water, the tensions of rigging, how the wind billows the sail and how the boat cuts through the water, you can describe it all through your works.'

 

In 'Evening Departure', Vega's sailing knowledge invaluably comes to the fore as the movement of the ship, the swell of the ragged ocean and the flurry of storm clouds capture the viewer in a sense of awe. Beautifully painted, the sea  froths and foams as the ship rides through the troubling weather and is greatly reminiscent to the tempestuous waters of William Turner's 'Shipwreck'. And Vega's need for knowledge and experience of her subjects also ties her to the  19th century painter who, as history tells it, once strapped himself to the mast of a ship during a storm in order to experience the force of the elements; an experience which culminated in the creation of his famous work 'Snowstorm'.

 

With the darkness of the storm, and indeed the time of inspiration was described by the artist as 'a filthy night', there is no horizon visible. Instead the inky sea fuses with the sombrely turbulent sky and in doing so frames the ship within the confines of its struggle against the elements. Movement is not only created from the ship's passage through the surging waters, superbly highlighted by the contrasted shadows of the deep sea rollers crested with white horses, but also from the encroaching heavy-laden low clouds, moving into the scene to blot out the last peaceful glimmer of blue sky. This patch of  brightness within the gloom serves to accent the tall ship's rigging, which are delicately echoed in the background by masts and rigging of moored ships silhouetted against harbour lights.

 

Movement with her works is an important aspect to Vega, as she explained: 'A work takes place over time, it is never static. It may depict a moment in time, but there is more to it, there is a passage through time. Painting is a fabrication. It is about taking something which is static and 2D, but making someone believe that it's moving, that it's alive and taking place over time.'

 

When we turn to study the tall ship itself we see a magical transformation and shift in atmosphere from the tension and power of the gripping storm to a gentler, warm, safe mood. The haven for those aboard her is given significance by the yellow haze of the ship's lamps, gleaming beneath the billowing wind filled sails, cutting through the darkness as the craft itself cuts through the rough waters. A small dot of bright red, a navigation light fixed to the ship's bow, instantly grabs the viewer's eye and draws them into this shelter from the  storm, allowing them access to the work. As she sits proud, within the wrath of  the weather, the ship is again suggestive of a Turner composition. Although the majestic power of sail is an age past in his famous work 'The Fighting  Temeraire', the imposing grandeur of such vessels has been marvellously captured  by Vega in 'Evening Departure'.

 

Painted in oils upon a traditional gesso primed board, the medium affords a great deal to the work through its richness and tonal depth. After using  watercolours for many years, the vastly different medium of oils is something that the artist is enjoying experimenting with. 'With watercolour you can allow the medium to flow, but oils don't give that freedom, you have to work the medium,' she said. 'I've had to learn how to get the colours I want. In a watercoloiur I would use the white of the paper, but now I must add the white and play with it. But there is a brightness and intensity with oils which is not present in watercolours and I like that.' Vega often makes working sketches for her compositions, using charcoal and pastel in order to work out form and colour for the finished piece. She explained: 'I like charcoal because it's quick and you can smudge it and instantly get your tones in. Soft pastels are the same and give a similar brightness of colour that oils do. You can work from a photograph, but that only gives you so much. A sketch, combined with your knowledge and experience gives so much more to a work.' However the work is created, and whatever medium is used, the important aspect to Vega is that the viewer is able to take something from that experience. 'In each painting I try to make an image that can evoke an experience, idea or emotion from your own life and memory for once they are finished they are no longer about me, but how they allow your feelings and imagination free play.'