'Unfamiliar skies (bare ground series)', Sophie Aston

Painting with bare ground and a bare sky

Oil and alkyd on canvas, 153 x 213.5 cm

'My recent paintings take the form of landscapes, and are reflections in part on attempts throughout history to picture the sublime and locate it in nature. These attempts direct one instead towards the issue of unattainability, as the sublime tends not so much to resist as to be characterised by the very failure to achieve closure.

I have given the title 'Unfamiliar skies' to a whole series. The phrase appears at the end of Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, when Gatsby’s dream world disintegrates:

“...he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.”

The bare ground shows through in many of my recent paintings (as occurs in many 19th-century landscape sketches). It is there in place of a painted ground or earth. The painted illusion is thus made unstable, breaks up. The paintings present scant, empty scenes which reflect simply back the fact of our seeking.

‘Meaning’ always slips away, the illusion of space slips away, leaving just the relationship me: you.'


Sophie Aston was born in Kingston, Surrey in 1970. She studied at Wimbledon School of Art in 1990-91, Glasgow School of Art in 1991-95 and Chelsea College of Art in 1997-98. Her exhibitions include Hunting Prizes Royal College of Art London 1995, Three Abstract Painters Duncan R. Miller Fine Art Glasgow 1997, Contemporary Art from France, Germany & Great Britain Daimler Chrysler Aerospace Munich 1999, Aspects of Abstraction Paton Gallery London 2000 and Landscape Blue Gallery London 2003.