Siobhan McLaughlin's practice sits between abstracted landscape and an expanded form of painting. Firmly situated in the history of experiential landscape painting, she combines personal experience with compositional devices, such as the use of alternative materials, to create a non-traditional depiction of landscape.
Her current work is centred on my experience of landscape: the perspective, feelings and difficulties specific to walking in Scotland. Walking enables an accumulative research process of experiencing and contemplation which is then channeled into her work. Through this sensory experience, translated into the physicality of large-scale painting, McLaughlin explores an understanding of our fragile existence in the world. Whilst walking and sketching, whether on Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh or up in the Cairngorms, Nan Shepherd’s Living Mountain, 1977, resonates strongly with her thinking. Shepherd’s prose teaches new ways of approaching the landscape, in that ‘we should not walk up a mountain, but into them, thus exploring ourselves as well as them’. Her insights into the shifting palette of the landscape feeds into McLaughlin's work as whilst walking, where she gathers a particular spectrum of colours, affected by light, weather and time. This contemplative thinking can be translated to other landscapes, such as Venice where she climbed San Marco church tower, as a way of processing the relationship to the place whilst living there for a short while. The overlapping and oddly juxtaposed materials in the San Marco painting mimic the topography of Venice’s rooftops.
The materials sewn to create the base for McLaughlin's paintings are largely non-traditional, and there is a tension created by the competing tautness and looseness of adjoining fabrics, and by the paint as it unexpectedly interacts with each surface. The unfolding of this complex and precarious, whilst considered, nature of production mirrors the unpredictable experience of walking in Scotland, or the unexpected moments discovered in Venice. The exposed frayed edges of fabric, loose threads and prominent brush marks, lay bare the construction of the painting, compelling the viewer to contemplate the process of labour and creation. The layers of paint creating underlying rhythms and currents, form new skins and mirror the tangibility and rawness of the landscape.