The magic of colour; For his latest show, artist Stan Rosenthal is returning to the landscape that has fundamentally shaped his art, as Jenny White discovers.
ONE of Wales' best-loved artists is exhibiting in Pembrokeshire again after an absence of several years.
Stan Rosenthal was once a familiar figure in West Wales.
Although not Welsh by birth, he fell in love with the country and its people, makingWales the subject of his art for many years. During that time he lived in Haverfordwest, St Davids, Pembroke and, most recently, Narberth, where he had a studio gallery.
Being a well-known local figure benefited his art.
He says: "A great thing about being a painter is you get to see nice places and when people find out you're a painter they will tell you about places you should paint.
"I think the farmers liked the fact that I liked their land for what it looked like. I remember one farmer inviting me onto his land to paint."
One of the things Rosenthal misses most about Wales is that friendliness.
"If it wasn't for my health I'd still be living there," he says.
He finally left Wales on his doctor's advice; an ongoing chest complaint meant that the damp climate no longer suited him, and he has since settled in East Sussex. But his memories of Wales continue to filter into his work, which was changed and shaped forever by his time spent here.
Rosenthal's artistic career began in Southend, where he entered art college before he was 14, transferring to Leicester two years later.
During his time as a student, he had contact with two artists who were to become his heroes: Graham Sutherland and John Piper.
Like them, he only truly found his voice as an artist when he visited Wales.
"John Piper's pictures changed completely when he bought his cottage in Pembrokeshire and so did mine," he says.
"Pembrokeshire has light bouncing off the sea on two sides, and that increase in light gives everything an additional brightness. My work definitely became more colourful when I moved to Pembrokeshire; it was a reflection of the fact that the colours really are brighter."
The pictures on show for his latest exhibition at Pure Art in Milford Haven bear testament to this fact. Executed in a variety of media, including oils and acrylics, they depict local scenery such as Maiden Castle Rock, Lydstep Haven and Fishguard Bay. The colours are characteristically rich and vibrant - a reflection not only of the true colours of Wales but also of Rosenthal's feelings about the country.
"I don't think about the end user when I'm working - I only think about what it's doing to me," he says. "The art of art is transferring what a scene does to the artist onto canvas so that people looking at it will achieve an experience of the same sort of intensity.
"I hope that people will be moved and lifted by the pictures."
Rosenthal's working process typically involves painting from memory, with the help of sketches and photographs taken on site.
"When I visit a location I go with an open mind, to see what is presented to me. I don't go looking for anything specific and sometimes it's a long time before I decide to paint a particular scene," he says. "There's one place near St Davids that I drove past twice a day for two years before I saw it as a picture."
He is delighted to be exhibiting in Wales again after his enforced absence and remains nostalgic about his time here.
"I miss the colour, the way the light changes quickly just as the weather changes, and I miss the hywl," he says.
Pure Art's owner, Leslie Crascall, is equally thrilled at Rosenthal's return.
"Stan is an exemplary artist and it's a coup for the gallery to be exhibiting his work," he says.
Since opening a year ago, Pure Art has gathered a distinguished list of exhibitors. Rosenthal's work will go on show alongside prints by Graham Sutherland, one of the leading artists of the last century. Sutherland visited Pembrokeshire every year throughout most of his painting career.
It was his visits to Wales that helped him establish his distinctive painting style; like Rosenthal, he attributed the country's special magic to its light.
Pembrokeshire has enchanted other painters too - among them exhibitor Rob Saunders, who lives in the West Country but makes regular painting trips to Pembrokeshire.
His colourful depictions of Pembrokeshire landscapes dotted with cottages form a bold contrast with Colin Carruthers' Pembrokeshire paintings, which also feature in the show. Carruthers tackles the same scenery, but with a more naturalistic palette.
Despite the differences in their approaches, both artists succeed in conveying the elemental drama of the West Wales coastline.
Pembrokeshire is also the theme for Macclesfield-based artist Anne Aspinall, whose Pembrokeshire seascapes feature in the show. Her distinctive style is a result of combining printing and paintings techniques.
While the local landscape is the dominant theme of this exhibition, some of the exhibitors pursue other topics - notably Irish painter James G Miles, whose depictions of Galway hookers (graceful Irish sailing boats) have been popular in West Wales ever since his solo show at Pure Art a few months ago.
"I'm proud to be exhibiting such a diverse range of artwork from such a talented selection of artists," says Crascall.
"It's always a pleasure to curate a show and I'm particularly pleased with how well the pictures in this show work together."
The show runs at Pure Art, Milford Haven from tomorrow to March 31 Fishguard Bay Church Doors, Lydstep