Ruth McCabe


The brooding wildness of Pennine moors, and dense, dark structures of 1950’s industrial West Yorkshire, formed the backdrop of Ruth’s childhood. In more recent years the coastal saltmarshes of Suffolk have added to these sources of  ‘on the edge’ conflicted landscapes. A first degree in Botany and Zoology taught her to look carefully and began a life-long deepening appreciation of the immense complexity of form and function in living things. Mark-making then ‘went underground’ to become an activity within the mind during her training and work in Group Analytic psychotherapy. In these years her pleasure in following an unplanned, unpredictably unfolding path grew stronger. On moving to Suffolk, on-paper mark-making re-emerged, with Julie Noad (oil painter), and Geoffrey Pimlott (RWS, abstract painter) as mentors. Since 2011 she has largely made her own journey in an instinctive way, her process still taking the unplanned, experimental paths of her earlier years. Emptiness, quiet, a sense of remoteness and solitude are conveyed in her contemplative watercolours, the oils picking up on more strident energies. The work offers an unfolding structure that can be explored over time. Frequent visits to Southwold Harbour in 2019 have drawn Ruth’s attention to a sense of powerful attraction to being ‘on the edge’; where journeys begin and end. Something about sea-faring: going out onto the vast ocean where signs and directions are always changing, and finding the way depends on working with forces far greater than our own. She is looking forward to discovering how this connection will become manifest in her work. After sketching outdoors during her wanderings, work in the studio is more interpretive: a pigment applied, then stepping back, waiting, considering, and responding: perhaps scraping back in oils, or layering on more translucent pigments in watercolour. Forms build gradually that begin to reveal a subject. What the medium will do, and how the substrate responds, are ‘group members’ in this practice. The onlooker is drawn into these layers and forms which continue to reveal or expose depths not initially seen.