Contemporary Art Market: Nature makes an inspired return

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The Independent Online
The countryside has been a constant inspiration to artists and two West Country exhibitions demonstrate that it can still inspire good art - although 'nature' is severely out of fashion with smart London galleries.

The sculptor Peter Randall- Page, who lives on Dartmoor, has a big retrospective at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol, while the painter Reg Lloyd, who lives at Bideford on the Torridge estuary, has a show at the Alresford Gallery, near Winchester.

Randall-Page takes his inspiration from natural forms such as shells, fruit or seed pods and, more recently, serpents. He adapts these simple forms and makes carvings from marble or Kilkenny limestone that stand between three and eight-feet high.

Most of his sculpture is designed to stand outdoors. To create sculpture which can show to advantage against a natural backdrop is his ambition. Most often he succeeds.

The stars of the show are his set of three Fruit of Mythological Trees, 4ft high and carved from limestone, which cost pounds 45,000. You can get a 'Font' in the form of a coiled serpent at pounds 24,000, and mystery seed pods entitled Black carving I and II at pounds 5,000 each and small bronzes for pounds 1,000.

His work is owned by, among others, Lord Carrington and the National Trust. This year's retrospective has also been shown in Edinburgh and the Yorkshire sculpture park. It looks as if his reputation may be taking off.

Lloyd is the chosen illustrator of Ted Hughes, the Poet Laureate. They have already made two books together and are currently working on a third about the sea, to be called The Mermaid's Purse.

He often paints Silbury Hill and ancient standing stones - the forgotten history of man in his landscape. He takes this further by incorporating a female figure in the landscapes, sometimes as a spectator, sometimes as part of its form. Weeds and wild flowers romp in his foregrounds.

He works in acrylic on board and in watercolour. The acrylics are deemed more important. A view of Silbury Hill in October sunlight, with beautifully painted nettles in the foreground, costs pounds 1,800.

The watercolours are more impressive than the acrylics. He has mastered the great technical hurdle of controlling coloured wash on paper - there can be no correcting, no rubbing out with this.

He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour earlier this year.

His subjects do not vary, always kaleidoscopically adjusted landscapes, but the watercolours come much cheaper, mostly in the pounds 250 to pounds 650 range.