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‘EMPATHY’, Canwood Gallery, Checkley, Hereford, HR1 4NF

3rdAugust to 2ndSeptember 2018,  Tuesday to Sunday 11am – 4pm, cafe on site

Private View to which all AICA members are invited: Saturday, 4thAugust 2018 11am-2pm RSVP:

‘EMPATHY’ is the first exhibition, in the UK, which presents contemporary art in relation to Empathy Aesthetics at the new rural art foundation, Canwood Gallery.  It features 32 paintings, prints and sculpture by two British artists, sisters Dr Angela Summerfield (member of AICA) and Caroline Summerfield. Their works explore the experience of Empathy in relation to landscape and the human body.

The art theorist, Robert Vischer, coined the word Einfühlung, literally ‘to feel within’, in 1873, and this term was subsequently translated into English as Empathy.In 19th-century Europe the evolution of Empathy Aesthetics wasassociated with other contingent theoretical developments and debates, namely Phenomenology; Associationism and early Psychology; on-going debates surrounding Pantheism and Theism; the new concept of Stimmung (roughly translated as‘atmospheric mood’) in the visual arts, literature and music; colour and light theories and the science of optics; and the emotive power of compositional geometry and spatial depth in landscape painting. Aspects of the debate surrounding the complex concept of Empathy related to two earlier cultural developments, in mainland Europe and Britain: the Sublime and Romanticism. The British artist, John Constable, for example, when writing about his own approach as a landscape painter, used vocabulary such as ‘feeling’ and ‘sentiment’;  William Wordsworth’s poetry and his chosen way of life encapsulated a special relationship between human nature and the natural world; the German landscape painter, art theorist and doctor, Carl Gustav Carus,  wished to share that ‘all that we feel, all that is, and all that we are, rests on an eternal supreme infinite unity’; and the leading Swedish art theorist and artist, Richard Berg, wrote ‘people have a need to see a personality behind every work of art, to sense a heart that beats within it…This element – a personal, unique inspiration – is linked to the nature of art; without it, there can be no talk of art’.

This exhibition sets out to establish a contemporary basis for Empathy Aesthetics through artworks which address the experience of aesthetics and conceptual art practice:  art forms which appeal to both the emotions and our ability to actively regard, reflect and reason. It challenges received ideas concerning emotional content and the experiences of art, which have not fared well in relation to modern and contemporary art history and art criticism, as disciplines predicated on objectivity. Through a process of aesthetic fusion, we can experience dissonance and harmony; beauty and ugliness; trauma and tranquillity; disinterest and pleasure; and visual metaphor, analogy and ambiguity. The exhibition also acknowledges that artists create with an awareness that, in addition to their own artistic intentions, the viewer brings something of themselves, their life-histories, cultural backgrounds, epistemological make-up and sensory awareness. The experience of Empathy Aesthetics can be pleasurable, profound and imaginatively-engaging.  It reaffirms art as a form of creativity (not production) with all the human awareness and sensitivity that this implies.

A 32-page, colour-illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Dr Angela Summerfield, is available from the Canwood Gallery. For this and press images


Image: Angela Summerfield, ‘Un-natural Nature: “In the Pink”‘