Study of Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland’s work on nature is my main reference and inspiration of my paintings. In David Mellor’s “The Damned”, he described Sutherland’s work, “…while roots and branches suggest tangled arms and legs. At times his views open up and close like a human body.” In “Sutherland’s Metamorphosis”, Alexandra Harris said ‘..Sutherland deals in anthropomorphism, making branches and human limbs transferable……Though his work can look deathly, decay is only another form of fertility for Sutherland, and is part of the ongoing creation.’ I am deeply inspired by the trees’ after life (trees becomes another life form after decomposed) especially after the research project I did in Unit 3.

Based on the idea of the limbs like vegetable-hybrid, and the aim to achieving the drawing quality of sketch to painting, I did a study using acrylic and ink pen on acrylic paper.


I am thinking that it doesn’t have to be oil paint to have the fluidity and space for ‘things to happen’. I just need to make the acrylic obtain the fluidity ability and I believe this could be achieved with the mix of mediums.



Graham Sutherland: An Unfinished World

Works on Paper 1935-1976

Geroge Shaw

David Mellor ‘The Damed’

Vegetable-human hybrids of Sutherland’s imagination


He’s not interested in things, certainly not in things as they are, but perhaps in what they once were and will be, of what they could be. Nothing in his landscape answers anything. Shaking and scraping the shit of British Landscape off his shoes he opens up a vision to the very questions that run the risk of closing it down; what he himself might describe as the ‘precarious tension of opposites’. His suns, hills, valleys, roads, roots and skies are not our first encounter with the world around us: it is a second-hand deliverance, used up , tattered, passed on – the marks of its previous owner all too apparent. There is nothing new and nothing finished in Sutherland’s world.


Little Mountain in Wales, 1944, bursts like a blister on the horizon line and leaks down to the foreground foliage. Other mountains become breasts or nipples, while roots and branches suggest tangled arms and legs. At times his views open up and close like a human body. Such allegories and heaps of discarded humanity suggest over and over again the pantings of Philip Guston. Abstraction falls away and the figure is exposed to the elements.

Pictures such as Rocky Landscape with Sullen Sky, 1940 or Study for ‘Horned Forms’, 1944, are less like paintings than they are warning signs to keep out: ’Turn around there’s nothing here for you.’ If Sutherland is painting the future, it is a vision of Britain that Riddley Walker passes through on his own pilgrimage for answers. It is a landscape that has absorbed time, in which individuals can become consumed, where language, civilisation and progress count for nothing. Is both past and future. A landscape of forgetting and of the forgotten.


To see a solitary human figure descending such a road at the solemn moment of sunset is to realise the enveloping quality of the earth, which can create, as it does here, a mysterious space limit – a womb-like enclosure- which gives the human form an extraordinary focus and significance.


There is a certain kind of strange communication where the inanimate speaks for the individual, finds words for the inarticulate, where what we find in the outside world correlates weight for weight with what we can’t quite find within ourselves.

In any case, the painter is a kind of blotting paper: he soaks up impressions. He goes through ‘periods of fullness and evacuation’ as Picasso has said, and is very much part of the world. The painter cannot therefore avoid soaking up the implications of the outer chaos of twentieth-century civilisation. By that token, tragic pictures will be painted – subconsciously perhaps – and without necessarily having a tragic subject. Picasso himself during the war painted tragic ‘still lives’; maybe one can only ‘mutter in darkness – spirit sore.’ But one has in one’s hand the instruments of transformation and redemption.

“The tension of opposites:
Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.

A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”

 Morrie Schwartz

Sutherland’s Metamorphoses

Alexandra Harris


Sutherland was not looking for picturesque views…(Wales). He worked instead towards symbols of what it felt like to be in this place, and symbols of the natural forces that seemed so much in evidence.  …Or an ancient story of struggle and survival is compressed into an awkwardly twisting bit of gorse sitting for its portrait.

Still life, landscape, portraiture: there is no telling which is which. These natural forms have character and agency.


..Sutherland deals in anthropomorphism, making branches and human limbs transferable.

Though his work can look deathly, decay is only another form of fertility for Sutherland, and is part of the ongoing creation. His oak trees may be misshapen, but they have warped into carnal ‘association’ and are about to reproduce. …Gorse, moss and lichen are his heroes: organisms that conjure life from air.


So too with Sutherland, who is interested both in magic and in material states.


An element of shock was crucial to his art: subjects often suggested themselves by surprise as he walked through a landscape. But he needed these surprises to occur fairly reliably. ..He was in search of bright sunshine, which often lit up arresting combination of forms, and since bright sun does not keep regular hours in England he relocated for large parts of the year to the Cote d’ Azur.


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