Article from The Cambridge Book and Print Gallery

The Cambridge Book and Print Gallery presents the paintings of Julia Ball and Isobel Stemp, two Cambridge-based artists whose works take inspiration from their environments, both local and further afield, and whose work transports us far beyond the literal. Colour is a uniting concern: both painters are highly sensitive colourists with a range that extends from extreme delicacy to full-bodied vibrancy, and on a scale from jewel-like miniatures to panoramic canvasses. Their qualities of light derive from extensive studies made en plein air, and the transformation from the landscape to the canvas often involves a distillation of their subjects into pure qualities of luminescence, resulting in a landscape-based abstraction.

Julia Ball has been exploring the East Anglian countryside in such ways for fifty years. Her works can reference specific places – a particular fen for example – but also abstract qualities, as she communicates essences that transcend time and place. She is also an accomplished printmaker, having first studied printing techniques at Reading University. A strong sense of design underpins many of her works, although her geometries increasingly have become softened and only residually present.

Isobel Stemp delights too in the open landscapes of the fen, but has produced many fine sequences further afield, including recently in Northumberland. There is a great rhythmic variety to her work, with rapid expressionistic brushwork counterpointed by wide spaces of contemplative calm. Contrasting rhythmic energies are found in her cityscapes, in which artificial lighting comes into play; and in her intimate still lives with their pared-down, balanced forms.

Peter Maber, October 2016

Isobel Stemp’s paintings of Suffolk reed beds, the East Sussex coast and the often wild flower-strewn chalk hills of Oxfordshire – as well as portrayals of the gently undulating, curvilinear, wood-topped Wimpole Way in Cambridgeshire – and the richly variegated terrain of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in different seasons – are distinguished by an exhilarating freshness, subtle vibrancy of colour and dynamically spacious and innovative approaches to structure and composition.

Philip Vann

(Philip Vann is author of a number of books on modern British and Irish art, and author of the critically-acclaimed Face to Face: British Self-Portraits in the Twentieth Century. He lives in Cambridge)