“IN THE mountains, there you feel free.” In just seven words, from TS Eliot's The Waste Land, we are invited to imagine a place high and mighty and liberating.
SKIERS by Cara Thorpe
And with snow-covered mountains there's that extra and extraordinary freedom known to skiers as they whoosh their way down the slopes.
Skiing is almost as old as the hills. The hills, of course, had to come first but primitive images from 5,000 BC showing skiers, using a single pole, were found in what is now called Norway; an Old Norse word skith meant snowshoe.
Irish artist Cara Thorpe is not a skier. She's "more interested in taking photographs of the environment rather than in the actual skiing itself", and in this recent painting she's attracted to "the sense of light, shadows, trees and the groupings that you see on the slopes".
This image is of nowhere in particular. For Thorpe, "it's not about the place but the atmosphere" and the atmosphere zings here with light and movement.
The angled figures, in full flight, cut across and swoop along a snowscape. The central skier heads downhill beneath a sky awash with bright bluey-greens. Spots of blazing yellow sunlight in the foreground contrast with the layered dark fir trees. The work captures what skiers know – that thrilling sensation of being alone and in tune with a bright, white expanse.
Thorpe's paintings involve "a process of working and re-working layers of paint to create coloured, textured surfaces". She has painted fighter planes, birds of prey, monster tanks and men of power, and Skiers began as a lunar landscape. But "the more I worked it, the marks on the boards started to suggest trees and the ski slopes seemed to fit. This is the way a lot of my paintings evolve, the atmosphere, colour and marks determine what the painting is about.
"The more you leave a painting open, the more likely that it will suggest itself to you, so the painting retains its spontaneity."
Her main preoccupation is "to find something aesthetically beautiful" with "a little mystery and questioning". Skiers is all of those things.
Cara Thorpe's new show Lost and Found is at Cross Gallery, 59 Francis Street. Dublin 8 until April 12. www.crossgallery.ie