Linescapes, which opened at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate last week, is an apt title for the work of contemporary printmaker Ian Mitchell, whose digitally created, limited edition prints not only capture the beauty and diversity of the Yorkshire landscape, but pare it back to its minimalist lines and shapes.
The influence of Mitchell’s training as a graphic designer is unmistakeable, with line, form and flat colour being his means of portraying the essence of a place. It is a reductive approach, which although reminiscent of early 20th century travel and rail posters, is also distinctly unique.
From the huge stretching panoramas of the coastline at Sandsend, Saltburn and Runswick Bay, to the reductive depictions of Dales and North Yorkshire Moors scenery, such as Gordale Scar and the Hole of Horcum, there are images to resonate with everyone. Yet it is the contrast rendered by the sculptural majesty of the manmade in nature, such as Angram Dam in Nidderdale, The Deep at Hull or the M62 stretching over Goole which adds a real power and a rare angle to Mitchell’s work.
Born in Keighley and a passionate sketcher from a young age, Mitchell first studied at the Bradford School of Art before completing a degree in Graphic Design at Newcastle University. After initially pursuing a career as a graphic designer, he started to experiment with digital software to produce art works of the Dales he’d loved and explored as a child.
“I still have a passion for graphic design and I bring those aesthetics to my art, as the landscapes I create must look balanced and work visually,” he says. “During my research I work like a photographer, getting out into the countryside and taking hundreds of images on my camera. I usually work at dawn when the light is at its most interesting and the shadows are harder and longer.
“Once I’ve found a scene I want to create I compose it digitally using a Vector drawing programme and tablet. I play around with the perspectives to create a final composition that I am happy with and although instantly recognisable is often quite different to reality.”
A fascination with water runs through Mitchell’s work, it’s a recurring theme which led to a 2013 commission to create a study of the water cycle, from ‘source to sea’. Several of these graphic abstract water studies along with Mitchell’s most recent rich, textural Abstract Composites are also on display.
Another motif within Mitchell’s work is man’s interaction with the natural landscape, an influence which has been the inspiration for the Reservoir Series which he has created especially for Linescapes.
“Over the last 20 years I have gradually become much more interested in the human-made within nature,” he says. “Initially it might just have been a little cottage, a path or a groyne on the sea shore that I would reference, but now I find myself increasingly drawn to the contemporary man-made landscapes and the concrete modernism of architecture, bridges and sea defences.
“The reservoirs and dams around Harrogate, such as Swinsty, Fewston and Thruscross are impressive but also very at ease and picturesque within the landscape – a tension I have explored which I hope will resonate with the visitors to the exhibition.”
At the Mercer Art Gallery until June 2. Free entry.