The art of mountaineering, and mountains in art

A new exhibition in the Lake District aims to explore the aesthetic appeal of rock climbing and mountain environments.

Prominent Lines is a collection of work by climber and artist Tessa Lyons, highlighting the beauty of rocks and crags. It will open at the mecca of climbing art in Grasmere, the Heaton Cooper studio, on January 25.

Sheffield-based Tessa, 27, works in charcoal and chalk, creating pictures which are inspired by Japanese calligraphy and Zen painting. Tessa is a climber and an artist intrigued by the visual appeal of geology. From large-scale charcoal drawings of mountains, averaging two metres wide, to delicate depictions of individual rock climbs in ink, Tessa’s work looks to capture the essence of the places that she is drawn to.

One of her most viewed recent works is on display at the remote Black Sail youth hostel, a picture of Pillar Rock which was commissioned by the YHA in 2014.  The piece is on permanent exhibition in the tiny sitting –cum-dining room for walkers, runners and climbers taking refuge to enjoy.

Pillar mountain, exhibited at Black Sail hostel smaller

Tessa studied illustration at the University of Brighton where she was won the Highly Commended Award by Nagoya University of Arts for her charcoal and chalk drawing Summit of Haystacks, The Lake District. Since graduating she has had gone on to exhibit nationwide in both group and solo exhibitions as well as being shortlisted for numerous awards including the Association of Illustrators New Talent Award, and BITE, the UK’s leading printmaking competition.

Her work is a regular feature in the British Mountaineering Council’s national publication Summit magazine. In 2014 Tessa was invited by Kendal Mountain Festival to commemorate 100 years of the classic rock climb Central Buttress on Scafell in the Lake District.

“Climbers often talk about certain climbs, or lines, as being ‘beautiful’,” says Tessa. “At the crag a prominent line will draw your eye, striking inspiration, leaving you with a burning desire to do the climb. With these drawings I’m looking to capture the essence of those compelling lines with a strong simplicity inspired by Japanese calligraphy and Zen painting, the textural qualities found in printmaking and observational drawings of the rock formations.”

Tessa says that  in climbing you can reach a state of heightened awareness when you become centred in that moment:  “You’re aware of subtleties in the formation of the rock under your skin, your body is engaged in the flow of movement and your mind is right there, present with you. I have found a certain correlation between the mental concentration and calmness I sometimes experience during climbing with this condensed and bold way of drawing. This fascinates me and I feel it’s a fitting way to try and express the nature of climbing and the inspiration that it brings.”

Director of the Heaton Cooper Studio, Becky Heaton Cooper said: “We are thrilled to be showing these striking and memorable works by a very talented young artist. The exhibition will fit very naturally into our permanent collection of landscape art.”

Gallery at the Heaton Cooper Studio

Prominent Lines will run from January 25 until March 6.


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