The Work

'Parables of Light'


1 April – 1 May 2003
Art First Contemporary Art
First Floor Gallery, 9 Cork Street, London W1S 3LL
Tel: 020 7734 0386 | Fax: 020 7734 3964
artfirst@dircon.co.uk | www.artfirst.co.uk

From the Foreword to the exhibition catalogue
by Clare Cooper
Director, Art First Contemporary Art, London

" … her paintings … are transcendent celebrations of nature. At the same time they are concerned with order and harmony, harnessing a pulsating quality of colour and a play of light that radiates with jewel-like intensity. In composition and handling the paintings are highly structured and inherently 'classical', extending the great legacy of Cézanne …

The quality of the work is remarkable: considered, rich, beautiful and powerfully rendered, its evocation of place and its dynamic sweep across horizons as far as the eye can see, make it gorgeous to look at and uplifting to live with."


From the exhibition catalogue, 'Parables of Light'
by Marilyn Martin
Director of Art Collections, Iziko Museums of Cape Town

'The etymology of the word 'parable' – comparison, a placing side by side, a similitude, an allegory, a proverb, a talk, a dark and enigmatic saying – allows me to begin the discourse on Diana Hulton's work … The viewer finds movement and repose, exploration and consistency, spontaneity and calculation, feeling and logic in the paintings. Light, colour and atmospheric conditions are fugitive, but the landscape – particularly a mountain – is permanent.

… Hulton presents three types of landscape in this exhibition: symbolic, place-based and abstract. They have one thing in common – they are born of extended meditation on nature … The unflinching focus, study and absorption of the scene culminate in works that are at times frontal, direct and very real, at times symbolic and at times abstract. Because the series do not follow sequentially, but comprise simultaneous explorations of individual landscapes, the three types of landscape are inextricably linked ….

Hulton is a master watercolourist and the quality of light that is possible with the medium can be seen particularly in the Helderberg series, a vast landscape in the Western Cape, the province of her birth in South Africa. As the weather turns around in Thomas's Poem, so she moves between openness, horizontality and repose (Helderberg III and Helderberg IV) and the overpowering, almost threatening, symbolic force of the landscape and the personal experience (Helderberg VIII). It is interesting that the latter work emanates the same strong sense of permanence and connectedness that is found in Llandegley Rocks 1, Hulton's current home in Wales and the most recent Welsh painting, Black Mountains XIX, 2003. She achieves this through smaller brushstrokes and densely layered paint that capture the colours, tones of the landscape and the light that moves across it.

… a meditation on human kind's relationship to the primeval forces of nature and a striving for the metaphysical.


From the exhibition catalogue, 'From 'Poem in October' to 'Parables of Light''
by the artist

'On the morning of his thirtieth birthday, the poet, Dylan Thomas, sets out early from a Welsh seaside town to climb, once again, the hill he used to frequent as a child. The ascent is steep for he soon observes the spires of the church dwindle to a minute scale

" … the size of a snail
   With its horns through mist … "

The strange phenomenon of 'change of scale', which we notice when we move about in the open countryside or even in a confined situation is frequently described in terms of natural life or of the human body. We talk of a bird's viewpoint or that of an ant, of how the crow flies, a crow's nest, elephantine proportions, being knee-high to a grasshopper, at arm's length, at one's feet, under one's nose, face to face, cheek by jowl, a stone's throw. All of these are graphic descriptions of an abstract idea. They speak to us of sensations, feelings and experiences that are spatial. Cézanne often referred to the difficulty of realising his 'sensations'. The poet realises his through words that work like an artist's brush.

This curious transformation of one idea into another, of the animation of that idea and its successful translation into another form or medium gives me great delight as a landscape painter. These are the 'parables' of my discipline. From the physical to the ideological, landscape affords a multitude of options and aspects. To paint one aspect is only to be aware of another, or indeed of the many, equivalents one might avail oneself in this game of understanding and transforming, called 'art' …

To summarise, the title of this exhibition suggests to me not only the play of light but the possibility of many layers of meaning. The change of meaning that comes with a new perspective, for example, or an alteration in the weather, the seasons, the time of day and the lay of the land.

These observations provide the structure and symbols for my work, and enable the contemplation of the mystery of nature and its power to engage emotion. In particular 'parables of light' implies the creative process, the arrangement of equivalents to interpret landscape. It acknowledges the existence of a language of expression.'


Thomas, Dylan
Collected Poems
Eds W Davies and R Maud, London 2000
"Poem in October", page 86, lines 47-50