Ursula Leach paints and makes prints responding to the countryside around her: the chalk landscape of Cranborne Chase in southern England. She is interested in the farmed landscape and the changes made to the landscape by farming. She writes, “Living in a mostly arable landscape, I necessarily engage with current farming techniques as well as the natural changes that occur.”
Two things stand out in Leach’s work for me: feelings of isolation, and pureness of colour. Though many of the prints lean towards abstraction, many of them feature the mid blues and darks of night skies in the fields. There is a glowing quality to her colours which captures the feeling of being able to see in the dark once your eyes adjust, and the way that shapes are made strange and unrecognisable.
In some of her prints (Isolated Barn) the time of day is uncertain; it could be an over-exposed midnight or a white cloudy day. This makes it seem like a dream landscape. The red barn is not just isolated by being the picture’s only subject, but we see a zoomed-in view of it, which isolates it from its surroundings. Manmade barn versus pure, empty sky – this theme seems to run through many of Leach’s prints.
Leach uses the carborundum printmaking technique. This is a type of collograph printmaking in which a gritty substance called carborundum is mixed with glue and painted onto an aluminium plate. The plate is inked up and printed on an etching press; the carborundum areas trap the ink in their grainy surface, creating painterly marks and varied tones.
It’s interesting that Leach sees her work as “a document as well as an expression”. I wonder whether she feels a sense of duty to record the happenings of the countryside around her, whether she sees herself as a visual storyteller.
Ursula Leach is a member of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RE).