Utopic Landscapes: Surreal, foreign & familiar

Utopia is a personal imagination. It could be a tranquil forest entirely secluded from society or a lively city scene with bright lights and sounds. Either way, it’s unlikely any other person would share exactly the same utopic fantasy as yours.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a utopia is a personal imagination. It could be a tranquil forest entirely secluded from society. Perhaps a lively city scene with bright lights and sounds. It could even be a day out with friends and fast food watching as your team triumphantly wins the match. Either way, it’s unlikely any other person would share exactly the same utopic fantasy as yours.





An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.


The idea of utopia is that it is perfect to you personally, entirely as unique as yourself. For centuries the concept of imagined utopia has driven artists’ work, from William Morris’ intricate floral patterns fulmination against the dehumanising that fuelled the economy of the British Empire to Salvador Dali’s bewitching landscapes informed by dreams serve an interesting balance of utopia and dystopia warring. Even unconventional creations such as those from artists of the Dada movement were driven by the vehement disdain for the complacency of the bourgeois masses in the hope to bring forth a new era of an appreciation for the conceptuality of art as opposed to aesthetic alone. 

Of course, artistic movements have evolved over time and aesthetics probably vary now more than ever before, but there is validity in the argument that utopian ideals sit at the core of every piece of work. For example, Banksy’s ‘Bomb Hugger’ on the surface poses as a political piece of art drawing attention to the destruction of innocence through war and violence, but is still born from the artist’s utopian desire for a world without war. 

Other artwork however, is more obviously utopian, particularly landscapes. Kerr Ashmore creates encapsulating works of warm blurred landscapes informed by her emotions and memories. Her earthy colour palette creates depth that ebbs and flows, mimicking the movement of the landscape she captures. Inspired by the ever-changing land, sea and sky, Kerr’s work permits the viewer just enough of a glimpse into her psyche as she recalls utopian memories and locations, equally affording just enough space for the viewer’s interpretation through her abstracted painting style. The resultant effect welcomes an interesting concept of two imagined states marrying together within one piece of work: the artist and the observer.

Kerr Ashmore 

Claire Wiltsher adopts a similar technique. The artist famously said “Total recognition inhibits imagination.” Focusing predominantly on the relationship between sea and sky and their continuous movement in tandem, Claire more carefully considers exact landscapes when creating work, in comparison to Kerr who uses recall and emotion to inform her imagery. Claire’s work is often created on square canvases. The reliably continuity in her framing balances her work against the movement she references within the painting itself, as though she is containing the wilds of nature within a perfect freeze-frame. Claire’s work is often accompanied by poetry to further perform her experience to her viewer. In this way, Claire’s work arguably gives more to the viewer, providing further insight to the intention that went into creating the work, however Claire’s restraint in keeping her compositions abstract is a result of her careful manipulation to encourage the viewer to imagine their own utopia developing from her work presented as a foundational aspect. 

Claire Wiltsher Changing Tides

Other abstract landscapes approach the subject of utopian portrait differently. Andrew Hood’s representations of worldwide destinations perform an alternative angle from which to view a landscape. Hood travels multiple times a year to gather references for his work, often recreating scenes he has experienced on his travels. The composition of buildings within urban landscapes stands to portray a true representation of a real place existing in the present. However, the artist’s choice to use a continuous colour palette within his works and adaptation of elements of pointillism to convey the hustle and bustle of a lively landscape as a distant observer speak to the artist’s own ideals. Much like artists such as L.S Lowry, Hood prefers to observe the world around him contently, responding to the aura of his environment. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the artist’s tranquil location overlooking the streets full of vibrant life below, as though the artist is allowing us into just a moment of his utopia through his eyes.

Andrew Hood Dusk from The Tate Modern

We are delighted to host such an impressive and varied collection of landscapes in the gallery this autumn. All of these works will be available to view in-house or online soon, and they are absolutely not to be missed.

We are hosting an evening with artist Kerr Ashmore on Friday 28th October. Discover more about the event, and receive regular updates from Hancock Gallery by viewing our Facebook Event. 

Share on your Socials: