Traveling on foot, by raft or canoe, climbing mountains and weathering extreme climates, English artist Tony Foster creates watercolor diaries in the worlds great wildernesses. For more than 25 years, he has been painting large-scale works on what he calls the edge of the world. In his most recent exhibition, Tony Foster: Searching for a Bigger Subject, opening July 11, 2009, at Phoenix Art Museum
, Foster focuses his attention on two of the worlds most powerful subjects Arizonas Grand Canyon and Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
Foster has worked extensively at remote locations on the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon, and at Mount Everest on the North Face, where hikers generally approach, and the even more remote East Face. He is believed to be the only artist to ever create paintings of Everest from the Nepal and Tibet sides of the mountain. The exhibition, on view through October 18, 2009, is the culmination of Fosters travels to these breathtaking sites and includes 32 recent studies and monumental paintings.
Working in delicate watercolor, Foster blends the nineteenth-century traditions of British explorers, who made detailed notebook sketches of their travels, with a contemporary artists interest in working in a large-scale format. His largest watercolor paintings measure an astounding six feet wide, particularly impressive considering they were made on location. Appreciation for the difficulty of working on such a scale while on site, however, is secondary to the beauty of the paintings themselves.
My thesis is that despite a world overloaded with imagery, certain places still retain the power to inspire awe and wonder, commented Foster. All of my work is based on the philosophy that our planet is a gloriously beautiful but fragile place, and that as an artist it is my role to deliver a testament to the fact that wild and pristine places still exist.
The resulting paintings are a visual record of what Foster encounters on his journey. Included with each work are tokens or souvenirs from the region, such as flora, fauna, journal notes and a small geographical map locating the exact point of which he camped and worked.
Tony Foster was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1946. His home is in Tywardreath in the county of Cornwall, though he travels extensively to make his work. His adventures have resulted in 10 major exhibitions and his work is represented in collections at The Autry Center of Western Art, Los Angeles, Denver Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Sierra Nevada Museum of Art, Yosemite National Park, and in many private collections internationally. In 2002, the Council of the Royal Geographical Society awarded Foster the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award for artistic portrayal of the world's wilderness areas.
Fosters work is the subject of a new book, Painting at the Edge of The World: The Watercolours of Tony Foster (University of Washington Press; September 2008; Hardcover; $75.00) This magnificent compilation contains more than 275 pages of Fosters adventures, bringing to life some of the worlds most acclaimed sites with his alluring images; extensive travel notes documenting conditions and logistics; diagrams; and photographs.