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Fred Cuming: Brian Sinfield gallery, Burford
‘It’s where I walk every day, or pretty much every day,” said Fred Cuming RA. “Camber Sands, about five or six miles from where I live, at Iden, near Rye.”
I had been admiring Cumulus and October Sea, one I’d love to have placed a red dot by and one of 32 recent oil paintings from the renowned landscape painter on show at the Brian Sinfield Gallery, Burford, until August 4. On the chill bright flat stretch of beach two small figures walk, painted dark grey and white to maximise contrast, following a line of wet sand parallel to the sea. A sliver of turquoise sea reflects light from a darkening sky. Cuming’s paintings are deeply atmospheric. Many show the coast, especially the East Sussex coastline. Many are moonlit scenes — gibbous, full or crescent moons illuminating dreamy evocative purple-toned views painted in his trademark palette of mauves, greys and blues.
None is a strict copy of a scene. Instead, he absorbs what he sees, perhaps scribbling down ideas or making a few colour notes, but mostly working into the evenings in his studio, painting from memory, or as he says, from “out of my head”.
“In a curious way, what I find is it’s like a kind of dialogue. I put some paint down on the canvas and it begins to suggest things. Like, I spend hours deciding where the horizon is, or what proportion of colour to use. I fiddle about a bit and the painting begins to form.” The Dungeness peninsula features several times. A place of unconventional beauty, of enormous sand and shingle flats, immense skies, and extraordinary quality of light, it’s no surprise it’s close to Cuming’s heart; he has been going there 40 years. In the ethereal darkness of Dungeness Under Snow (above) he captures the moment the moon hangs over the tall old brick lighthouse; in Dungeness, the uniformity is broken by a few flowers, dabs of red, orange and blue paint, poppies and viper’s bugloss apparently.
In Angel Against a Storm lofty clouds and a navigation tower built to help ships avoid the treacherous sands form pleasing contrasts to the horizontals. For information go to www.briansinfield.com