Freedom of the Mark – Gill Crozier and Janie McLoed

Over a year ago a group of artists set up a number of studios in the Cambrian Buildings behind Sainsburys. One of these spaces has been given over to the Chicken gallery, arguably the best in Oswestry. Although small, it’s the perfect place to dive into and meet with an explosion of colour, line and form – opening your mental space, on a dull day, to optimism and life.

There is a different exhibition each month. This month it’s the turn of Gill Crozier and Janie McLeod to display part of their touring show, “Freedom of the Mark.”

Walk This Way: Janie McLeod

I met them one rainy day last week. A few minutes into the interview I realized I had a potential Gilbert and George double act before me: they had so many things in common.

First, they both get their inspiration from landscape, and apart from the Welsh Borders, they have a passion for Cornwall. Why? Because they’re interested in that special quality of light where sea meets land.

Second, both are interested in the physicality of paint and colour.

Third, when I ask them which artists they are most influenced by, they burst out laughing and say Peter Lanyon. His methods and philosophy interest them. Janie goes further: she says his paintings distil all the things she’s aiming for.

They also like Samuel Palmer, 1950’s British art, Pollock, Rothko, Heron, W. Barns-Graham and Peter Doig.

I’m intrigued to know what the process of making a painting is for them, and how it has developed and changed over the years.

Bosigran: Gill Crozier

Gill says her work is always developing, but the trend is to simplify, to get a clearer vision. In every painting there is always a point of deconstruction and panic: she’s always challenging herself to be more daring, building up layers of visuals, emotion and experience ‘to make things happen’ She describes her art, tentatively, as being semi abstract. She begins with her sketch book – to get a conversation going. Or she may be inspired by a line of poetry or a particular colour. Recently she did a very successful painting in which the starting point was merely to reproduce a particular luminous green.

Janie describes herself as an abstract expressionist. She says she has no choice between doing realist or abstract art: it’s just the way it is. It’s also her opinion that ‘no work should be easy’.

She has no image in mind before she starts, no preparatory sketches, no sketch book…though she does have an ipad The starting point is the landscape and her emotional response to it. Memories are not stored in her head but in her heart, and the paintings emerge.

Over the years she’s become more confident about the marks she makes, more sure about what she has to say, more certain that she can make marks that convey a meaning. She’s moved from acrylics to oils, and from using brushes to bits of plastic to enable her to make marks in a more sculptural way.

Blue Boat 2: Janie McLeod

For the future, she plans to get bigger.

Gill says painting is with her all the time: it’s her life unfolding, her way of interpreting reality, and the perception of all things. Everything she does comes into her art.

Likewise for Janie: it governs every aspect of her life, how she spends her time, the places she inhabits, the people she spends time with. It’s the fabric on which everything else hangs.

Is this Oswestry’s Gilbert and George – two women, one artist?

No . . . ! Shared outlook – very different art.

Gill Crozier and Janie McLeod’s exhibition runs from July 11th to August 4th at The Chicken Gallery (ex Screamin’ Chicken). Open Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat. 11am-3pm

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