A Conversation with Sheila Fell: detailed background notes to the compositions

landschaft 030

Available to listen to and buy at Bandcamp

Release date: 29 June 2022

Format: digital download. Artwork and typography by Landschaft.

The work explained

'A Conversation with Sheila Fell' (b1931, d1979) is my response to a particular set of circumstances, leading me to Sheila’s corpus of art works; an embodiment of landscape viewed through the lens of Sheila’s eye and art practice. The circumstances are the back story and are mine: the discovery of this artist through a slim exhibition catalogue ‘Sheila Fell, The South Bank Centre 1990, no ISBN’ found in a second-hand bookshop in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, a settlement I would describe as a cathedral village, dominated by Southwell Minster set in rolling unremarkable landscape set back some miles from the Trent Valley. The magic of this small discovery prompted my musical response. My ideas crystalised from the moment I read this slim volume – cataloguing a series of exhibitions, December 1990 to August 1991.

1990, 11 years after the death of Sheila Fell. This was the first retrospective of her work. Is she overlooked as an artist? I don’t know the answer to that question, but she is represented in major collections: Tate, Liverpool Walker, Royal Academy, Arts Council and others and extensively in private collections. The internet is thin on detail except that a Cumbrian gallery is offering her work in the £ tens of thousands bracket. Sheila was supported by LS Lowry for part of her art journey, I was surprised to learn and struggled it would seem. So maybe not overlooked, but inobtrusive.

Her work is elemental. Paint and Canvas the pigment carved in thick impasto, reminding me of Lowry – but marked (largely) by an absence of the human form. A sort of Lowry antithesis of un-peopled bleak rural mountain-scape.

I was transfixed.

So this my response: Landschaft 030, ‘A Conversation with Sheila Fell’. Eight piano works, some lightly supported by instrumentally ambiguous tone backgrounds and counterpoint.

The opening title work I have kept raw and stark, a mirror of the less travelled landscapes of Cumbria. The pedal-stops that form punctuation in this work define the points of reflection. It is split into four statements, the third of which is a period of silence before a brief coda conclusion. The pieces then move through largely reflective, mood works to the end; Horizon:

1. A Conversation with Sheila Fell

2. No Poem Marks this Place

3. A Meeting Point pt I

4. North British

5. The Reading Room

6. Calluna

7. A Meeting Point pt II

8. Horizon