Red Crag is the sandy Pliocene layer, deposited roughly 2.5 million years ago and rich in shells and sharks' teeth, that appears as low cliff on the coast of North East Essex and Suffolk. For Melvyn King the term is both descriptive and lyrical and caught his attention when he moved to North East Essex and began to learn about the local landscape and geology. Meeting former fellow student Martin Fidler again after a gap of nearly 45 years, a mere blink in geological time, they discovered to their delight that they shared a lot in common in their approach to painting and looking at landscape. Martin Fidler, an artist who has often worked collaboratively, became intrigued and the Red Crag Project was born.
"My work has always been predominantly landscape based, but hopefully with a sound underpinning of abstract design. I embarked on my Red Crag series as a way of extending my interest in landscape by bringing the abstract elements to the fore, thus freeing myself from the often problematic placing of the horizon and the division between land (or sea) and sky. I have always loved the earth colours: iron oxide, ochre, umber, offset by blues and greens and intense vermillion. These are the colours that I find in the landscape that surrounds me in North East Essex, particularly In Harwich and Walton-on-the-Naze. I apply the paint quite freely and intuitively, layering up pigments and textures and then, in chosen areas, scrape back to the support and start the process again to give a notion of layering, depth and erosion and perhaps an idea of the passing of time." Melvyn King
"Since completing my MA in experimental painting at the Slade in London, my drawings, constructions, painting and book collaborations have been placed in public collections at the V&A, Tate Britain, Southampton City Art Gallery and the Museum of London. During parallel careers in art education and as an artist, an understanding of ‘a palette of different styles’ has helped broaden my ideas about composition, form and structure. In projects about coastal subjects, trees and gardens I use the interaction of being inside and outside realistic representation.
The ongoing collaboration with the painter Melvyn King in Harwich is centred upon producing an imaginative response to the Red Crag ‘rock’ under the Essex coast. These pieces look through ‘the curtains of abstraction’ onto a stage designed for invention and serious playfulness. They represent a new opportunity to explore a hidden horizon." Martin Fidler
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