When I have a photo shoot at Gray's I see my work in a different way, lighter and clearer. Last week I had another chance to get some work photographed and I had a little tutorial session about how to photograph my work at home as well. Here are some of my recent works in oil and textiles:
Yesterday was the first time I've presented a slide show about my work. It was only 7 minutes, so I couldn't really fit all that much in, just a re-cap of what I've done over the first year of my MA. It was great to hear all 19 other students present their work, it made me feel like part of something larger and diverse. What I came away thinking was, we are all drawn to making art in our own way, everyone just needs to create and they'll find their way. The important thing is how to help others make without judgement or criticism, how to encourage fruitful activities in art where we can learn from our doing. All we need to do is create, with little suggestions or nudges and genuine engagement from our peers or teachers.
My work is largely connected and interwoven in the pursuit for creativity, through my studio practice this year, in exploring colour first, then line and eventually form and in my research into process-oriented methodology.
I began my MA by contemplating why I was drawn back to mark making after a long hiatus. I started by considering the fundamentals of 2-dimensional art, colour and form. I dove into colour by eliminating form from my work and experimented with various techniques: watercolour, oil, acrylic, textiles, printmaking and I researched colour theories and colour in contemporary art. I picked up pastels and found that the pure pigment lent itself to the exploration of colour, which I was able to experiment with on a larger scale.
Through this development, along with others, I started to find out what interested me about making art and one of the responses that arose was simply: do it, make, be in the process. I began deconstructing my process of mark making through the process itself, the more I created the more I learned about my practice and the importance of ‘process painting.’ There is some intangible element of creative unknowing that is compelling when embarking on an improvisational piece of art. I work predominantly with this improvisational methodology where the materials lead the way, and my work slowly transforms over time and as the materials change.
More recently in my practice, I have been rediscovering line. After having explored colour for some time I intuitively fell upon the importance of line and particularly the circular form. As I worked with this circular form for a while the line slowly changed, naturally breathing into space and off the page, then widening and straightening. It was as if after my break from art, I needed to first consider the foundations of colour, and then to investigate one of the fundamental forms of line: circles.
Recently I have started a watercolour series in order to digest current news articles, be it about migration, poverty, drugs, politics, racial crimes or child labour. A question arose for me while considering the function of line, can I transform this line into another form, can it depict something personal or incorporate something bigger? What if the beauty of colour and form were to transcribe something tragic, would it help a viewer re-consider that subject? Activism is to go against the societal grain and bring up critical questions. So this is my quiet protest, currently evolving in the studio.
The creative process is interwoven with the projects and interlaced with the substantiality of the artist. My artistic practice is still developing, moving onward towards new prospects. Structure holds it in place, with the exploration of new techniques and further development of known ones, but it is the freedom that holds my interest, the freedom to improvise and the investigation into the process of painting and creativity.
"If you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point. I am interested in expressing the big emotions - tragedy, ecstasy, doom." Mark Rothko
I began by creating a picture today which is very Rothko - like. A field of green with a patch of purple at the bottom. I've been exploring colour for months now, on small squares of wood, on silk, with pastels and watercolour. I have not wanting to allow myself to make a picture like his, but today I allowed myself to make it with Rothko in mind, and to feel my way through the picture, because these shapes come out organically in considering fields of colour and juxtaposed colour. It was a beautiful experience of colour. Peaceful, harmonious, even if it was contrasting colours.
This evening I finally delved into Rothko's story and Colour Field Painting a bit more."Color Field Painting emerged out of the attempts of several artists in the late 1940s to devise a modern, mythic art. Seeking to connect with the primordial emotions locked in ancient myths, rather than the symbols themselves, they sought a new style that would do away with any suggestion of illustration." (the arts story)
Many aspects of this rang true for me, the fact, in the quote above, that colour can represent various emotions, and that these paintings come about in an individual process oriented manner, instead of a projected planned way. Rothko "ceased to be interested in representational likeness and became fascinated with the articulation of interior expression." (the arts story) It was interesting to see who influenced Rothko, philosophers such as Nietzsche and many artists and who he influenced. I had not come across Jules Olitski before and I was surprised how similar his work is to mine, or vice versa. I can see his influence from Goethe-an colour theory in his soft fields of changing colour. His painting is the one above, titled, "Instant Loveland," which I remember seeing at the Tate Modern.
I look forward to studying more about these artists, and more importantly to see how I can forge my way forward in my personal process of exploring colour.
"We are creating images whose reality is self-evident and which are devoid of the props and crutches that evoke associations with outmoded images, both sublime and beautiful...The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history." Barnett Newman
I have been aware of the work of Hilma af Klint in the last couple of years. A friend went to see her exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, Painting the Unseen, and gave me a card. At first glance I wasn't too interested in the content, but looking closer and reading more about her process I found it fascinating. She was turn of the century, a contemporary to Kandinsky and Mondrian, looking at colour, size, and working in an intuitive way. She was influenced by Rudolph Steiner's esoteric ideas and many of her organic forms stem from these. She began painting the "invisible worlds hidden within nature, the spiritual realm and the occult."
"In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people." (Moderna Museet in Stockholm)
In my own work I have found that intuitive methods of creating are ideal. By creating and listening, or feeling your way through a painting, to what comes next you can then see where it will lead you. This I believe is intuitive expression, allowing yourself to create one colour at a time, by following your instinct. I haven't felt it for some time, but I remember when I was really in the creative flow times when I would step back from a piece I was working on and think, "Wow, did I make that?"
My current artistic practice consists of deconstructing botanical images. I am intrigued by the various shapes created in nature, in particular the peculiar and odd shapes that natural objects take on when seen up close. My paintings are an abstraction of botanical material, much more than a classic botanical illustration or still life. I look at nature because it has so many easily accessible objects, but it’s how I decide to interpret them that gives my work substance. I try to feel my way into a painting, looking at the composition, the contrasting surfaces. I find the scientific aspect of plant morphology and plant anatomy thought-provoking as an art form. It challenges the observer into trying to decipher the painting, giving them the experience of color and space and the tactile surface.
What constitutes art and craft. Is craft simply useful art? I have been working with craft for a while now, in one way or another, exploring various craft methods: weaving, spinning, felting, knitting, sewing, woodworking. Now coming back to painting I am contemplating new ways of creating large pieces. One of the things I found difficult about painting on a large scale was the transportation. It's wonderful, an amazing feeling to work on large canvases, but they're a pain to deal with after the fact and how useful are they really. So it makes me consider looking into more useful art, such as painting on fabric to create a large piece or to work with cloth in various ways. I was reading American Craft Council magazine and Marie Watt's work was inspiring, she makes large pieces using textiles. She speak about community, history and the political situations of today in a beautiful way. Her piece Witness (2015), exemplifies this.
So here I am, delving into art a bit more seriously again. After taking a 10 yr break to teach Waldorf Education and study Anthroposophy, which I thoroughly enjoyed and don't plan on completely giving up. In terms of my artistic background I graduated in art in 2000 from Bennington College in Vermont, then moved to Italy where I painted in oil, exhibiting my work locally and working as a children's book illustrator, having 13 children's books published. Now I find it's time to re-focus on my art and give it a jump start by starting the MA in Art & Design at Grey's School of Art in Aberdeen.