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Tony Foster - Searching for a Bigger Subject at Royal Watercolour Society
Tony Foster, Searching for a Bigger Subject, 2008.

LONDON.-From Kala Pattar 17800' looking E to Everest. April 26 2006. With AP. Breakfast in low cloud and -10_ before climbing slowly up from Gorak Shep. Breathless at 17800' I sit in wind & snow to work while AP shelters behind a rock. Everest partly concealed by a snow spume is a forbidding & awe-inspiring sight. Clouds move in and we retreat, shivering, to Gorak Shep. Tony Foster, Everest, 2006.

British artist Tony Foster makes epic paintings from epic landscapes. The world's mountains, canyons, volcanoes, icebergs, swamps, rainforests, rivers and deserts are his medium. He has travelled from the Grand Canyon to Everest, Greenland to Honduras, the Maldives to Bolivia and Costa Rica to Hawaii in search of the Sublime. He is both artist and explorer, spending many months at a time in the field, a modern pioneer-painter with an ambitious, exacting quest to find the perfect viewpoint from which to recreate on paper the impossibly huge landscapes before him. In contrast to the early painters of the West and elsewhere, Foster makes his paintings – through hours of labour – in the environments that inspire him, enduring the extremes of high, remote and dangerous, inaccessible places. The events and finds of the search are as important as the painting itself.

Seen in America as a leading exponent of landscape art, Searching for a Bigger Subject is Foster's first major solo exhibition in the UK although he has lived and worked in Cornwall for over twenty-five years. The focus of the show are his large-scale 6' x 3' paintings of the Grand Canyon and Mt Everest, made over the last five years when Foster began to evolve bigger works made in more challenging situations. These paintings - as with Foster's other work - are informed by a contemporary practice of intensive research, living and working on location, engaging with local and indigenous communities and promoting the cause for protection of wilderness places. The paintings are annotated with journal entries, short narratives, found artefacts and geological, floral, faunal and historical evidence.

During three expeditions Foster has painted all of Everest's three formidable faces – the only painter known to have done this - lashing his enormous drawing board to the rocks against the winds and battling frozen paint water and cracked paper after journeying through Nepal during a time of high military alert. One of his Everest paintings is thought to be the highest ever made - at 17800' - but left its toll as Foster suffered acute mountain sickness.

Foster's explorations of the Grand Canyon began over twenty years ago culminating in the sixteen day walk of the South Rim to find the perfect panorama followed by eleven days of painting. He has made ten expeditions to the Canyon and hiked over 500 miles on its trails from the rims to the river often in the company of people such as Bill Brace, the noted geologist or the writer Annie Vanderbilt.

It is Foster's belief that despite a image-overloaded world, some places still retain the power to inspire a sense of awe of wonder and in choosing to work in such iconic places as the Grand Canyon and Everest his 'intention is to promote the concept of the primacy of the subject'.

A major 324pp (13.5” x 12”) colour publication, Painting at the Edge of the World accompanies the exhibition. With a Foreword by Robert Kennedy Jr, the book documents Foster’s twenty-five year career and is launched to coincide with the exhibition, Searching for A Bigger Subject. Published by University of Washington Press and priced £39.95..

Tony Foster was also the subject of a documentary, The Man Who Painted Everest (59') broadcast on Sky Television in 2006 and was awarded the Cherry Kearton Medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 2001.

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