Dimensions: 210 x 210
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The Pembrokeshire coast is one of the most varied, dramatic and celebrated coastlines in the world, and to anyone with even a passing familiarity with Jason’s work, its appeal to him should be obvious. For the last two years, he has been exploring the land and the islands situated off it, on foot and by boat, tracing every contour of its cliffs, sketching its promontories and outcrops and the ever shifting, immense body of water which seems to constantly threaten the very existence of the land itself. Out of Darkness is the result of this endeavour. It is quite possibly the finest testament to date of Jason’s intrepidity as an explorer of both landscape and the etching process.
The exhibition is comprised of work produced from a number of journeys, and despite the unity of subject and Jason’s honed style, there is a striking variation, both across and within the individual series. Most prominently, there is the range of tone, the heavy darkness of the rock, the delicate light reflecting off the water, and even the occasional subtle trace of colour. While some prints demonstrate the crisp delineation unique to the etched line, in others an obscuring mist lends an almost abstract quality to the work. But never are we presented with an image devoid of sublimity as the term was first formulated. Jason allows us to witness these sights for what they truly are: a dangerous, fearful beauty.
It is an inhospitable landscape, shaped by prehistoric tectonic and volcanic activity and an ageless battle with the sea. The long neck of a marine dinosaur would look less out of place in a piece like Aber Yw and Ynys Duellen than would a person. The depiction of water and light has always been central to Jason’s work. Even when he turns his eye to the city, he fixes it firmly upon the river. The eternal struggle with the sea in which the coastline is engaged mirrors the struggle which most occupies him as an etcher: how to coax the chaotic fluidity of water and the fugitive quality of light, from the unforgiving solidity of a metal plate. What is especially exciting about Jason’s work is that, though he has evidently answered this question, he continues to ask it with each new print that he begins.
Watercolour, on the other hand, has a greater affinity with Jason’s subject. Worked on simultaneously with their corresponding prints, these paintings offer a fascinating insight into Jason’s process, allowing us to chart the course of the pieces as they reveal themselves to him. The differences between the print and watercolour are at times vast, such as in the case of Skomer from Caerfa Bay.
Many of the watercolours are accented with spectral pinks and greens, though this is not the only instance of colour in the show. The black of the prints is rarely true black, often being supplemented with carmine or umber pigment. The subtlety of this palette speaks to the subtlety of Jason’s craft and the decades he has devoted to the art of etching. Thus is he able to produce a work as monumental as the six-plate Ramsey Sound. It is a deep appreciation for the land and sea that allows Jason to contain such vastness within his smaller prints, but to behold this hexaptych is an altogether different experience; it is almost daunting to stand before.
The Walking the Coast sequence from 2021 are the most recent in the show, and despite featuring the same stretch of coastline as that of some smaller pieces, they offer us something entirely new. Taking a nearly square format, our focus is entirely shifted as we are confronted by yet another enormity, that of the sky. There is a lightness and openness to these prints that so perfectly demonstrate Jason’s ceaseless investigation and ability to breathe new life into old subject matter. Although using the same technique with which he has so successfully captured water in all its roiling, lapping, glinting forms, here, as he leaves the earth behind, he has developed a new language of mark-making. The result is, in both senses of the word, uplifting, and makes one hungry to know to where Jason’s journey will take us next.
Luke Wallis, February 2022