Exhibition - Howard Phipps

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Bircham Gallery, Holt

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

> Bircham Gallery, Holt

Howard Phipps' paintings demand close examination. That is not just because they are mostly small. It is also because much of their charm and beauty lies in the intricate patterns of nature that he observes so closely.

Yet, though his craftsmanship is always meticulous, his art is never fussy or overloaded with detail.

Ox Drove in Winter shows him at his most characteristic. One gnarled, massive bole is the centre of interest, with the trunks of smaller trees creating scale.

Broken boughs and bare twigs trace patterns in the sky. As the clear light of a chilly day comes in from the left, it conveys a sense of direction, if not of movement, giving the still scene its sense of life.

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Phipps' favourite medium is wood engraving. Two pictures reflect his fondness for this traditional medium. One of them, complete with gauges and router, shows the round leather pad supporting the block of wood into which the design will be cut.

The other revels in the complex shapes of an old-fashioned printing press that dominates the room where it stands.

Generally, though, Phipps prefers the outdoors. Sutton Mandeville depicts a country church in

idyllic sunshine.

He puts more originality into the great bulk of Winkelbury Hill Fort, and he captures the features of the West Country in his water meadow with their hatches and stepping stones.

East Anglia is represented by the particularly persuasive Aldeburgh Beach.

Working mainly in black and white, Phipps occasionally turns to colour. In the lino cut

Winter Stubble Fields he again shows unfailing taste, adding just the right amount of slate blue and palest yellow to enliven the perspective out across the countryside.

t The exhibition continues until March 1. Further details at www.bircham-arts.co.uk

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