Tuesday 21st of September 2021
The Arts

Susan Leyland & Patsy McArthur: Joint Exhibition at The Osborne Studio Gallery

Discover the work of Susan Leyland and Patsy McArthur, two artists both inspired by equine beauty, at a joint exhibition at the Osborne Studio Gallery from 7th – 25th November 2017.

Susan Leyland says that her horses are of no particular type or breed; they are created in a simple and geometric form, on pedestals or bases which are an intrinsic part of the sculpture.

Patsy McArthur is known for her superb draughtsmanship.  Her charcoal drawings of horses in movement express natural energy, strength and grace, surpassing anything a human being could achieve.

Susan Leyland

Susan Leyland (born 1952), makes equestrian sculptures of rare originality.  She has lived and worked in Tuscany since her first visit to Florence in 1973.  The Renaissance city cast an immediate spell as potent as it has been long lasting.   

Her home is seven kilometres from Florence, with a view over the Arno valley and a glimpse of the golden Duomo.  The studio where she sculpts her clay horses was converted from stables in the garden, among olives and cypresses, a ‘magical place to create.’  Art  historian  Tamsin Pickeral (author? ) describes it as ‘filled with sketches, cards, models and inspiration’.    

Serenity 55x27x17cm

Timeless 52x18x24cm

Susan has loved horses since she was four years old, when her grandfather, a vet and breeder of horses, gave her a pony.  Horses are her friends, companions, bringers of calm and freedom, and the source of her art.  The quality of her drawing began to emerge at boarding school in England, when her work was chosen for children’s exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art.  She thinks that it may have been a small collection of white Chinese porcelain horses which fired her imagination, leading her towards sculpture.  

During her first seven years in Florence she worked as a fashion model, taught English in her spare time, took drawing lessons, practising her art when she could.

In 1987 Susan Leyland began creating her first sculptures with the help of Florentine artisans, giving riding lessons to pay the bills.  She held her first and second exhibitions in Florentine galleries in 1998 and 1999, in 2000 at Saratoga Springs, New York, the year she became a full time sculptor, and by 2004 she developed her distinctive Horse Block sculptures. She begins with the block, and they ‘literally develop as she manipulates her clay.’

In her own words: ‘the base and the sculpture become one, each evolving and emerging from the other, whilst maintaining total balance and visual purity. The blocks give me a feeling of roots, of stability, whereas in extravagant opposition are the bronze Gallivanting Horse sculptures which are light, joyous and full of quick, fleeting movement.’  

Each Horse Block sculpture takes about a month to complete. When the sculptures are dry, they are fired for a week in a furnace reaching a temperature of over 1000 degrees.  Before the modelling starts Susan prepares dozens of sketches and studies of horses. 

As for her bronze Gallivanting Horses, these are made directly in wax.  A simple basic wax model is used to create a starting point for a variety of movements and shapes.   The long stem elevates the horses to give the sculpture a fleeting aerial feeling. 

As Tamsin Pickeral (publications: The Majesty of the Horse, 2006, 30,000 years of the Horse in Art 2012)  writes: ‘ in two separate groups Leyland captures all facets of the horse. She has spent her life studying this most majestic of animals, and the connection between horses and humans.

‘She brings together pure, simple and brilliant geometric form, and from these spare, unfussy shapes conjures horses of tremendous beauty and character.’ 

Susan Leyland has held solo exhibitions in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Sweden and Germany, She was awarded the American Academy of Equine Art Director’s award in 2008. 

Patsy McArthur

Patsy McArthur was born in Glasgow in 1976.  She grew up in the countryside of the West of Scotland, calls herself a ‘horsey child’, but a ‘nervous rider’, with some success in dressage.  She studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen from 1994-1998, winning the Royal Scottish Academy John Kinross Travel Scholarship on graduation took her Master’s Degree in Barcelona from 2000 to 2001.

Barcelona may have given her a taste for sunshine after three years of cold, grey granite. Over the years she has been exploring different places, living in Florence, Spain, Australia, Berlin and Manhattan.  

Gateway, 90cm x 90cm, charcoal and gesso on wood, 2017

On The Up, 76cm x 76cm, charcoal and gesso on wood, 2017

No longer a compulsive traveller with a restless spirit, she now lives in Brighton. Her art has been dedicated to the human figure in movement:   ‘I strive to make images that convey a sense of power and energy. My models are not individuals but free-runners, acrobats or divers.’

Last year Patsy found she had reached a bit of a ‘stuck phase.’  She started videoing and photographing horses in her sister’s Scottish horse yard. 

‘I was inspired by moments when the horse was in mid- leap or canter, bucking and rearing with the rider or handler.’   ‘The horse has a natural energy, power and grace whether ‘leaping joyously or straining to clear an invisible fence’ which ‘seems to translate into our human experience.’

‘The process of drawing horses from photographs or video, has allowed me to gain a new sense of freedom and liberation. I am trying to make contemporary, emotional drawings which have as much to do with us as humans as they do with horses’.   

From 2004-2014 there have been Patsy McArthur exhibitions in the UK, Hong Kong, US and Shanghai.  She has sold her work to private collectors in the UK, France, Australia, Italy, Spain and the US, and for public spaces, especially in Scotland.


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