Fosse Gallery - British Contemporary Artists

Ursula McCannell Exhibition
Posted: 26th April 2016

Ursula McCannell
1923 – 2015

Private View at Fosse Gallery: Sunday 8th May 2016, 11am - 4pm.
The Exhibition continues until Saturday 28th May 2016.

A rare opportunity to acquire.

View Ursula McCannell’s Exhibition>>>


‘Portrait of a Girl c1985′

Artists take an abiding interest in their own kind. I became acquainted with Ursula McCannell’s work several years ago when Sharon Wheaton, the director of the Fosse Gallery, was determined that the art-loving public should know of this special artist.

How extraordinary that a talented, if not to say precocious, young woman painter should begin her career at a pivotal moment of 20th Century history: 1939, just at the commencement of the Second World War.

Along with most painters, Ursula McCannell’s work developed over the decades undistracted by the expectation of fame. As a fellow traveller, I feel both the joy and the burden of that vocation. Firstly, one works for oneself, then for a small group of intimates and lastly for the public - whoever he or she may be. What is significant, though, is the steady continuity of reflection through work.

So many artists have sought inspiration beyond their domestic sphere. And so it was with Ursula. I am relieved to note that she did not choose the conventional options of Venice or Provence. She found [was it something of the Celt in her?] two nominally Catholic lands—Eire and Spain.

I, brought up as a Catholic but today faithless to Rome or to anywhere else, first visited Spain in 1959 and I can attest to a land both earth-beaten and primitive. Ursula’s inventions are majestic icons, in which Velasquez’s blacks scorch the canvas and from which emerge forge-riven figures. They exist in an elegance of finely sensed hues and simple directness.

Ireland is a landscape at times soft-edged, sometimes as unforgiving and fanatical. Little white, blue and pink Lego block cubes dot the landscape. Dig down a little and Ursula’s people hold their gaze. They are the last of their kind; and yet their line will endure. Her images of Spain and Ireland abound with simple monumentality and with a permanence of Man’s spirit.


‘Woman by a Cottage c1980′

McCannell’s work was dominated by one principal idea. Her grasp of portraiture is so complete that all her people are accurate types who can be named: they have always existed,by the sea or in the landscape. It is their presence as eternal representatives of ourselves that render them universal. I embrace the bold composition of figures in her work - figures who hold, and gently dominate the formal space. The protagonists are strong yet vulnerable; they keep their secrets and appear to be gracefully accepting of their lot.

McCannell’s is a world recorded in paint with all the mechanical paraphernalia of modernity prohibited. Although nothing is barred as a subject, what matters is her decision to leave things out. The world’s pulse has changed, we are changed - we are lessened by the velocity of life today. Fishermen struggle to maintain their nets and farmers wrench the plants from the chemical earth with steel machines, but in Ursula McCannell’s canvases something universal remains: a steady stream of the raw youth, the clear sighted adults, bowed but unrelenting. They remain preserved, taking stock of us.

In many ways McCannell is undeniably a British artist, yet early seminal contacts with continental European painters, and her own emotional wanderlust gave her life’s work a marvellous and unwavering vision.

The paintings of Ursula McCannell fuse magic with mystery. They are both earth-bound and spirit-bound and that essence is a great achievement.

Mick Rooney, RA
This text is adapted from Mick Rooney’s Preface to the book Ursula McCannell, The Cadmium Press, 2011


Ursula McCannell, 1923 - 2015

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Fosse Gallery Fine Art
The Manor House
The Square
Gloucestershire GL54 1AF

T +44 (0)1451 831319

Terms & Conditions