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Annie Ovenden

Annie Ovenden’s name is carved into the history of English 20th and 21st
century painting thanks to her membership of the hugely influential and
much loved Brotherhood of Ruralists. The name’s a clue as to what bonded
this group together – namely, a passionate interest in exploring the
artistic potential of the evocative English countryside.

Of course, a preoccupation with landscape runs deep in the British – and
especially English – artistic psyche. It’s there in Gainsborough and
Constable, and even in surrealists like Paul Nash. Indeed, it extends
beyond the visual arts and into music (Elgar, Vaughan Williams) and
literature (Hardy, Bronte).

Annie’s wonderful work fits squarely into this long tradition. It reveals
the wonder of nature while also capturing its mathematical precision.
She’s well known for her tree paintings, of which there are many in the
new Catto show.

Two in particular demonstrate the artist’s range. Fallen Leaves in Springfield Park is an Autumn painting, but it’s still warm, saturated in October colours and wonderfully well-balanced. Lightning Bolt on the other hand is a dramatic
rendering of the terrifying power of nature and a demonstration of Annie’s
technical abilities: the electric light contrasting sharply with those
wintry arboreal limbs, the fractal-like upwards branches mirroring the
downwards fork of the lightning bolt.

Annie currently lives and works in Cornwall. But she’s not a native. She
was born in Amersham and studied at High Wycombe School of Art, before
working as a graphic designer and painter in London during the sixties.
She re-located to Cornwall in 1973 where, surrounded by Britain’s ancient
landscape, Annie was able to develop her deep interest in natural forms.

Her reputation grew, and in 1975 she was asked by Sir Peter Blake to join
Jann Howarth, Ann Arnold, Graham Arnold, Graham Ovenden and David Inshaw in the Brotherhood of Ruralists collective. The group’s first public
showing as a unified entity followed at the Royal Academy in 1976. And
they were still showing until 2007 with their final exhibition at the
Horsham Museum.

Of course, Annie has maintained a career independent of the Ruralists
during those decades. Her work has been included in solo, group and museum exhibitions throughout Britain and is in several important collections
worldwide. Last year she featured in The British Tradition retrospective
at the Clerkenwell Fine Art Gallery in London.

Meanwhile Annie has taught painting and drawing for 17 years at North
Cornwall’s Adult Education Service, helped found the South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts and is a member of St Ives Society of Artists.

It’s a privilege for the Catto to host its first show by one of the UK’s
great painters.