home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects | gazetteer | linksarchive | forum



The paintings of Marie Claire Hamon by Cathy Watkins




Happy with the label of a ‘romantic painter’, in this series of new paintings Marie Claire Hamon challenges the notion of what a ‘beautiful landscape’ might be. Describing her employment of the genre as “a tool for making meaning” she takes inspiration from the evidence/effect of mans intervention with nature. From locations as diverse as the cool of the Swiss Mountains to the aridity of the Atacama Desert, Chile, water pipes snake across deserts, tankers cross oceans and strips of tarmac stretch as far as the eye can see. In her rich and varied deployment of language the world is revealed: as is man’s infinitely complex relationship to it.

Returning to Switzerland on a recent visit Hamon describes the disturbing retreat of glaciers she could touch as a child. Her paintings of the Mauvoisin Dam present a visceral account of the scale of engineering required to harness the huge volume of water descending from the mountains. Continuing the theme of energy procurement in ‘Oasis’, Hamon presents the distant spires of the Tamoil refinery glinting like some ancient citadel on the horizon, the succulent green leaves in the foreground suggestive of a fecundity not yet in submission.



‘The way of a dream’ (picture above) depicts the main arterial highway running from southern to central America. Devoid of vehicles the motorway takes on an almost anthropological quality. This high mark of modernity is softened by the dreamy mountains on the horizon and a feeling of future hopes and promises. Other images from Chile include some exquisite smaller paintings of water pipes dissecting the soft desert landscape. A different kind of artery, and further evidence of Hamon’s fascination with transportation and the infrastructures required to sustain human life

Describing the landscapes that inspire her as “like huge installations”, Hamon gives us an indication of her central motivation. Paintings are constructed in the service of exposing not only natural phenomena but the ongoing interference of man versus nature. Employing both the fluidity of the paint and a joy of flat colour she celebrates the graphic elements in her landscapes with an equal reverence as, for example, the shifting tonal modulations of a rock face.

Fully embracing the spirit of the true romantic in her depiction of humanity set against the awesome scale of the natural world, her images have the effect of putting mankind in its place at a time when lack of consideration for the ecosystem may have apocalyptic consequences. Describing geography in political terms as opposed to wholly topographical or aesthetic, she nevertheless celebrates the beauty of the world – perhaps all the more so for underlining its fragility.




'Oasis' was at Campden Gallery Saturday 28th March – Sunday 19th April 2009