Katherine Hamilton

We all have our private view of Southwold – the little seaside town of global renown that each resident and visitor loves for very personal reasons. But the vision of painter Katherine Hamilton goes deeper and broader to embrace so many of our experiences and dreams.

In her latest and most ambitious cycle of landscape pictures to date, this intrepid long-distance traveller takes us on a journey of discovery extending no further than four miles from her studio (where she famously tramples pictures underfoot during their prolonged and painstaking evolution).

She has waited a considerable time before giving us this most revelatory of her guided tours – as if, just back from Burma, she had to go to the ends of the Earth before fully grasping the feel of home ground and its subtle riches.

What’s more, there is a strong sense here that she has needed fully to process her past life as a dancer and choreographer – taking her from training in New York to directing a troupe of street children in Addis Ababa – in order to understand our special atmosphere of stillness and silence. Her pictures sometimes suggest what remains when some sublime soundtrack has just stopped (and may soon start again).

And no wonder it has taken a fair while. For all the changes of recent decades, Southwold remains a world to itself. Almost off the map, we pride ourselves that our weather often escapes even the local forecast.

In this driest corner of England we have a remarkably liquid light. Rising above harsh history, we are buoyant in all senses – a cheerful town built around a brewery is bounded by sea, river and stream.

Katherine Hamilton invites us to look afresh – in a new light, from a different angle – leading us further and further through and around the coastal town that has already inspired legions of artists until we reach a peculiar recognition: the shock of the oddly familiar. This is something previously sensed but really realised only once she has presented it to us. It’s the essential essence of the scene.

IAN COLLINS

Southwold  April 2012

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