Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Culture
For an artist to use mud as a medium is nothing new. From the earliest sculptures of pre-Classical Greece to Anthony Gormley's now familiar Fields of thousands of clay figures, the very stuff of the earth has proved a versatile tool. In particular, since the early 1970s, such "earth" artists as Richard Long have been charting their progress through the world's ooze. It is refreshing, though, to find an artist giving a new twist to such an old tale.

Jason Gathorne-Hardy paints with the mud of England's rivers, using for his brushes the leaves and stems of the plants he finds on site. In the course of the last year, he has come to understand the subtle differences between the rich, rust-coloured earth of Essex's Elmstead Market (below left) and the soft brown mud of the Orwell and the Stour in his native Suffolk. It seems appropriate that he should be showing his latest paintings at this year's Aldeburgh Festival, in the heart of the East Anglian countryside, in an exhibition which also includes examples of his graphic work. When not painting his bold, lattice-work records of time and place, Gathorne- Hardy sketches the local wildlife, with the assurance of an accomplished draughtsman. His images of gulls in flight, in particular, exhibit a rare confidence.

Gathorne-Hardy's fresh young talent is encouragingly hard to classify. Tied to the earth, in the most literal of ways, he seems destined to take the British landscape to new levels of expression.

Snape Malting Concert Hall, Snape, Suffolk (0171-845 3545) to 23 Jun

Left: detail from `Elmstead Market, Essex Feb 96', mud on paper