The paintings in Euan Macleod’s exhibition Figure in a dissolving landscape are fundamentally of the elements: earth, ice, fire, smoke and sky. Their palette is of the white of the ice, the dark blue-grey of the rock, and the orange of the campfire and also the orange smoke that had travelled across from Australia’s catastrophic summer bushfires, before settling onto the ice of the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand where Macleod spent time earlier this year.
Paint is a kind of connective tissue between this landscape and Macleod’s experience of it. His paintings open our senses to the terrain – at any given moment one might feel dwarfed by it, frozen, nearly blown away, or thawed out by the fire. In Pull up, the lower half of the figure is anchored to the ice with rope and relative clarity of image, while its arms and shoulders are swept away into the ice and rock. This unidentified figure appears throughout his work, in this show traversing the ice, clinging to rope, pulling a boat, looming over the scene as a shadow, or hovering spectre-like between the layers of paint.
In some places, Macleod’s paint is rapidly brushed, or thinned and dribbling, and elsewhere he has worried it into craggy peaks. In the exhibition’s title work, a large triptych, Macleod has employed a steep perspective across the three vertical canvases, with the paint converging in a frenzy on a central figure. A barely visible horizon line brushes the top of the canvases, tipping the composition so the mountains loom over the viewer.
In Hooker Valley Painting, diagonals reach across each other in the landscape. A large trapezoidal peak appears to rise from a body of water. The rock is comprised of layers of blackened, deep teal paint, recalling the way stone contains colour rather than wearing it on its surface. Below, an oxidised-green reflection washes ethereally into an area of muddy purple-grey where a figure stands, anchoring the composition.