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Nature's Solace

Review by Corinna Lotz

Paul Hart Norfolk
Paul Hart, Norfolk Toned silver gelatin print

A leafless tree lifts its branches towards the sky in an almost empty landscape. Paul Hart’s images shut out 21st century urbanisation and express a romantic solitude, a one-to-one relationship with nature which is increasingly hard to find.

He has captured the flat beaches and aging walls of Norfolk, gnarled trees in Derbyshire, the hills and skies of Tuscany, and the battered doorway of an ancient wall in Hania, Crete. Human beings are there more in their absence than presence, sometimes only in their traces in cultivated land, by marks and structures, other times as tiny figures emphasising the spaces around them. Hart uses monochrome photography and wet darkroom methods to modulate a contemplative, classical mood

On the walls of JaggedArt in Marylebone, his landscapes frame close-up views of plants, revealing their delicate patterns, fluffy seeds and water drops rolling on their petals. The sweeping views are set against these inner structures, giving each a heightened sense of proportion, as the incidental is edited out. We can follow the soft flow of hills, the curve where sky meets earth, the abstract texture of a wall, the fringed edge of a leaf.

This is a vision of nature with a fragile purity both comforting and disturbing. We are reminded of their opposite in reality. Here we have the absence of things but the very absence of modernity is a reminder that many beauty spots – in Britain, Tuscany, Crete and elsewhere – are threatened by monstrous overdevelopment, insensitive construction projects, pylons, motorways, as well as global warming. They are a reminder of what we stand to lose.

Paul Hart: Nature’s Solace is at JaggedArt, 28a Devonshire Street, London W1 until December 9. Open Weds-Fri 11-6; Saturday 11-2.

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