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Cambria Magazine (Summer 2012)

The Light Orchard, Tenby Museum and Art Gallery.

Words by Eloise Williams  www.eloisewilliams.com

Tenby Museum is perched dramatically on Castle hill its view of Caldey Island unsurpassable on a clear and starry night. However the opening of the exhibition - being vulnerable to the elements as we so often are here in Wales - chose a wild, wet and ragged evening. The less determined traveller might have been tempted to regretfully close his curtains and opt for a cosy fireplace or a nice hot bath. It is to Manning’s credit (and I should imagine, relief) that so many, heavily windblown viewers made the journey and without question were delighted they had. For this was an exhibition of light and joy that one observer likened to opening a window into Summer.

On entering the gallery, the first painting is well chosen: ‘Heat and Dust’, a large oil immediately makes the senses leap. Full of Umbells hovering above sun bleached grasses before soft oaks, and a sky drenched in Prussian blues. Elsewhere ‘Tangled up in Blue’ is like a waltz of light drawing the viewer in, ‘A Day in Llanstephan’ reminds us of drawn out Summer days, we are envious of a dawn missed in ‘The Sun Climbs the Trees’.

There is a strong French influence at work here. Sometimes the brush strokes are layered to create constant shimmering movement, other times pixellated like Sisley, or a particular favourite of Manning’s, Henri Le Sidaner – ‘his painting of some poplars on a riverbank in the Musee Marmottan in Paris was so remarkable I returned the next day to see it again and nearly missed my flight. It’s simply a celebration of delicate light and beauty. It needs no explanation.’

You don’t need a degree in art to understand these paintings and there is no austere silence in which one is required to nod appreciation. Nor are there respectful whispers or people staring at paintings with knitted brows whilst trying to decipher exactly which way up a piece should be hung. Rather gasps of joy, smiles and conversation which seem a more accurate reflection of Manning’s work.

His website quotes Aaron Rose ‘In the right light at the right time everything is extraordinary’, and he excels in showing these moments of time. Amongst soft beauty there is the malevolence of nature, a haunted blackthorn, a shadowed sea, but when flanked with the soft whisper of Welsh Springs the audience is reminded of the holidays where the sun was (according to my dad) ‘about to burn through’, where the ever changing climate is a blessing.  

The artist should be proud of the wide appeal of his paintings – they are bought by those who already hold significant pieces of art; and also it was refreshing to see somebody who had never before bought a painting make the first purchase of the night.

This quote on his website, for me, sums up the exhibition;

‘Don’t look for obscure formulas in my work, it is joy that I try to offer you’

Constantin Brancusi.

Pembrokeshire’s Best (March 2011)

Art and Culture by Leslie Crascall (PureArt Gallery, Milford Haven  

“…painting views across the sea, and glimpses of the sun through branches. Light is a defining feature in his work. The resulting paintings are uplifting and create an illusion of limitless space…”

Wales Arts Review

The Light Orchard (Spring 2012)

Richard and Clare Rhys-Davies

“…it’s like walking into Summer…”