Created over two years, To The Water is Sax Impey’s latest solo exhibition at Anima Mundi, St Ives, bringing together multi-scale paintings on panel and paper.

Sax Impey
Sax Impey in reflective mood in his studio overlooking Porthmeor Beach

Since 2005, Impey has produced works derived predominantly from experiences at sea. A qualified RYA yachtmaster, he has sailed many thousands of miles around the world. His journeys have had a profound impact and subsequent development as an artist.

These works are derived from first hand experiences at sea. Having sailed many thousands of miles around the world, these journeys continue to have profound resonance for the artist. Some of the works in this show are based on experiences from his most recent transatlantic trip made last year, where others draw from a broader history of sailing voyages. For Impey, this show has become more of “a general hymn to the oceans”.

There is also a sense with this exhibition of the journey that takes place on land, and in the studio, where experience must be translated into form. There is notable evidence of continued experimentation in the diversity of mark making in this body of work, in the search for something immersive and elemental, where the use of medium reflects the behaviour of phenomenon.

Impey recollects his awe at the confidence and immediacy captured in the seascapes of 19th century Norwegian artist Peder Balke, and a desire for his work to incorporate this expressive and dynamic, sinuous energy alongside an adeptness for precision.

As Impey has said: “Sailing allows the experience of a constant duality, of both intimacy and immensity, and while
you’re up close and personal with it, you’re always aware of yourself as something of a speck in the vastness.” The changing scale of works is his attempt to embrace that duality.

Accompanying the paintings is a film work, which is structured to echo the Beaufort scale of wind speed. It begins flat calm and proceeds with gradually increasing intensity. It is bookended by two passages, and interspersed with visitations, which reflect the correlation Impey holds with dolphins and the faeries of Yeats’ poem Stolen Child, from which the exhibition title derives — entrancing, enchanting apparitions from another world, a siren call to a realm we cannot fully inhabit, but remain deeply connected to.

Indeed, it is through these works that we are invited to experience this unmediated attempt at reconnection with our natural world. As Albert Einstein wrote: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

A seemingly complex task perhaps, but nonetheless one aided by these works, and the continued courage and endeavour of the artist who made them.

• To The Water is at Anima Mundi, Street-an-Pol, St Ives from 2nd September until 14th October.

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