Final Developments

There has been a meeting with the MA group to discuss the final exhibition. Now the space (the foyer of the Art School) has been organised and areas agreed. I have a good space I am happy with, it has a stretch of clean white walls all ready for hanging my large pieces. My first task his week was to produced lots small experiments in colour and composition from which I selected the outcomes I considered most sucessful and would best  work together as a series.

Ready for action !

Ready for action !

At last I have the studio to myself so can spread out and work in the way that I want. Here are a few of the small compositions I produced. Some worked much better than others, the bolder less complicated ones with more intense colour contrasts appeal to me the most. I hope they will translate well into the large-scale.



This week I have also been  trying out some different fabric. I have worked on a silk/linen mix. This is heavier and stiffer than the 100% silk and slightly off white in colour. It was quite pleasant to work on and the bleeding was more controllable than the silk but when the dye dried It did not have quite the same luminosity. This fabric is wider than the silk so a square rather than oblong composition is achievable. The fluorescent dyes applied well to the stiffer fabric which I was pleased about and I enjoyed the resisting when painted on top of it. I used a decorating roller to apply the dye in rows.

Working on Silk/Linen mix fabric

Working on Silk/Linen mix fabric

Another fabric I have to try out tomorrow is 100% twill silk, it is heavier than the Haboti silk I have been using and has a slight texture to it which gives it a beautiful lustre. When I have tried out all three fabrics I will make a decision on which gives the strongest impact of colour and luminescence and use that to produce the rest of my pieces.

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Flurescent Abstract Silks

Here are some of my latest works, some of the final sample pieces before beginning work on the final collection.


I figure there will be room for eight large hangings in the space I have been allocated so I would like to produce double that to make sure I have enough to select from.


These will be 90cm x 150cm, I would like to do some 150 x 150 square pieces for more variety in composition  but I am limited to the width of the fabric chosen.


I am going to begin by working on some smaller compositions on paper and mixing the dyes so I have enough for the full set of silks.

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Today a colleague and fine artist Ian came to look at my work. I really respect his judgment and felt relieved and reassured to have some constructive feedback from him.

The most interesting aspect of my work for him were the digital drawings produced on a basic mobile phone app. The shapes in these he liked because they seemed to be informed by the colour rather than compositional concerns. I believe this is a result of the limited language available to work with via the app.

He considered the large canvas paintings to be laboured and concerned too much with ‘design’. I agree with him on this point, they took several days to complete and lost the spontaneity  am striving for as a connection to capturing fleeting atmospheric conditions.

Ian thought that I should continue disregarding any sense of depth or perspective that could relate the work to representational concerns. I should concentrate on abstract composition, flatness of surface and the quality of the edges of forms ie the blurring and softness that has evolved.

He mentioned Kenneth Noland’s ‘One Shot’ paintings:

Kenneth Noland

In the early 1950s, Noland began producing a number of series, each of which explores a range of shapes and color arrangements and remains committed to his staining method as a means of overcoming the tactility of the canvas support with the opticality of pure color. Like Frankenthaler and Louis, Noland experimented with thinned, acrylic-based paints, which made it nearly impossible to revise or modify colors after the paint had penetrated the (unprimed) surface. To stress the care needed to execute these works, he referred to them as “one-shot” paintings.

“I wanted color to be the origin of the painting, I was trying to neutralize the layout, the shape, the composition . . . I wanted to make color the generating force.” 

Noland adopted the circle as a way to make a “single expressive entity,”

I see the relationship to my own way of working , to have enough work for the final show I will have to produce large number of pieces accepting that only a select few will be good enough to exhibit.

Another artist mentioned during out discussion and who I am deeply inspired by was Patrick Heron.

Patrick Heron gouache

Patrick Heron

Underlying every phase were his constant preoccupations: with colour as space; with line as an indicator of dynamic relations as well as of description of form; insistence on the primacy of decorative order in the composition of images that begin and end with the four edges of the paper or the canvas.  Heron used that most rare and uncanny of gifts: the ability to invent an imagery that was unmistakably his own, and yet which connects immediately with the natural world as we perceive it, and transforms our vision of it.

This was a really thoughtful and supportive tutorial which reaffirmed and took forward the ideas already going around in my head. Thank you Ian


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Latest Developments

As the end of the academic year workload eases I eventually have a bit more time to immerse myself in the final section of the Masters.

I have had to make some major decisions in the past few days as I have so many ideas and different facets to my work I need to decide which area I wish to develop.

The important areas to me are; painting on canvas, digital drawings, dyeing silk, painting on paper.

The canvas paintings I did at Easter have remained untouched due to lack of studio space and a sense of doubt about their quality. This week I stretched the first one to see if it would change how I felt about it.


I thought I would be pleased and excited by it when I saw it all tidily stretched but actually I was a bit disappointed and rather underwhelmed. This really panicked me and  made me question why I was painting onto canvas, I felt a strong need to reassess what I have been doing.

I am continuing to enjoy experimenting with digital drawings. Some good news is that I have managed to aquire an ipad on loan for a few weeks. This will enable me to experiment with the drawing app on a larger scale which hopefully will result in something new.

Most recently I have been inspired and exited by the use of fluorescent dyes. Throughout my investigations colour has been of utmost importance to my practice, it has been employed  in my attempts to capture the luminocity of light and drama of nature seen through meteorological events I witness in my chosen landscape.

Exploration of ye and fluorescent media on paper

Exploration of dye and fluorescent media on paper

The powerful impact and intensity of the fluorescent colour is joyous to me, I revel in exploring how it interacts with the dyes, particularly when bleeding together. I can see possibilities to push boundaries with concept of such unnatural colour inspiring the natural landscape. I am interested in contrasting and complimentary colour evoking abstract concepts of atmosphere and light. To work with these ideas on a larger scale using fabric I can manipulate manually inspires me in a way that the canvas does not.

I have begun to examine how the fluorescent medium reacts on the silk and with the dyes. To my delight I discovered that as the fluorescent media  lies on the surface of the fabric so when it dries it resists the procion dye which penetrate the fibres fully. I found out the strength of colour could be manipulated, producing different effects applying wet on wet, wet on dry or wet on partially dry.

Dip dying: Fluorescent red electric blue

Dip dying: Fluorescent red electric blue

I manipulated the application of media by both unpredictable dip dying and more controllable direct painting methods.

Fluorescent pigment dye applied over procion dye with areas of discharge.

Fluorescent pigment dye applied over procion dye with areas of discharge.

Fluorescent red with electric blue on habotai silk

Fluorescent red with electric blue on habotai silk

A pleasant side effect of the process is achieved as the dye bleeds through onto the blotting paper it is laid on.

Blotting paper placed underneath silk while applying dyes.

Blotting paper placed underneath silk while applying dyes.

So I am confident that this is the way forward for me, it feels right, I am excited and inspired by these processes and materials. I think that it is unique to me and I am on the verge of developing this as a personal style that I feel an intense connection with.

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Peter Lanyon

Peter Lanyon Shy Deep, 1959

Peter Lanyon
Shy Deep, 1959

Here are extracts from the above book about the Cornish landscape artist Peter Lanyon. I found many parallels with his work and thinking but also new ideas particularly about the landscape being in constant state of flux.

Interested in natural phenomena – the weather.  “I like to paint places where solids and fluids come together such as meeting of sea and cliff, wind and rock”. Paints the quality peculiar to the feeling and experience of a place – immersion and attachment.

“My paintings are not abstract nor are they landscape. They use abstraction as a method and landscape experience as a source. They reject the conventions of landscape but remain recognisable in the country. They are concerned with environment rather than view and with air rather than sky”

Concepts of existentialism and phenomenology – susceptibility to outside forces.

Henri Bergson – theory of duration – time as perpetual flux not a series of static moments, identification with the space by walking in it; making contact. Subjective and objective (artist and environment) are a single continuum. The landscape is not static it is constantly changing and the artist moves around within the space to experience and investigate it.

Einsteinrelativity theory and the nature of existence.

Wanted art in which the spectator was an active participant. Sought to recreate experiences of place so the viewer could re-experience and interpret in their own way.


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Jules Olitski

Jules Olitski Instant Loveland 1968 Acrylic paint on canvas

Jules Olitski
Instant Loveland 1968
Acrylic paint on canvas

Discovering the work of Jules Olitski has been truly inspirational and interesting to me for many reasons.

The work is about colour and light. It has a haunting, ethereal luminosity achieved through the application of paint with a spray gun. The paintings possess a glow through and celebrate purity of colour. Although the purely aesthetic quality of colour is the only subject matter to me the work has a strong association with landscape and in particular Turners most intense sunsets.

Scale is of great importance to the intensity of the viewer experience of these paintings. “Size guarantees the purity as well as the intensity needed to suggest indeterminate space: more blue simply being bluer than less blue.” Clement Greenburg

Olitski statement for the 1966 Venice Biennale, ‘Painting In Colour’: ‘When the conception of internal form is governed by edge, color … appears to remain on or above the surface. I think, on the contrary, of colour as being seen in and throughout, not solely on, the surface’.

Olitski said he would prefer ‘nothing but some colours sprayed into the air and staying there.’ The appeal of his paintings for me is that they have the feel of a cloud of intense atoms of colour suspended in front of your eyes.

“Because the seeing of the surface is tied to the perception of a kind of color which so opens and expands that surface toward the viewer that it might be characterized as foreshortened, the very seeing of the painting in all its literalness poses a question about where the surface is. To see Olitski’s color means to see the surface itself as elusive and unaligned. Rosalind Krauss

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Aesthetic Descisions

Thinking about the act of painting, why painters paint and the relationship between the reality of the subject matter and how it is expressed through the aesthetic descisions and questions that have to be made over and over when creating a painting.  I came across this quote:

Willa Cather, Light on Adobe Walls

“Every artist knows that there is no such thing as “freedom” in art. The first thing an artist does when he begins a new work is to lay down the barriers and limitations; he decides upon a certain composition, a certain key, a certain relation of creatures or objects to each other. He is never free, and the more splendid his imagination, the more intense his feeling, the farther he goes from general truth and general emotion.

Nobody can paint the sun or sunlight; he can only paint the tricks that shadows play with it, or what it does to forms. He cannot even paint those relations of light and shade, he can only paint some emotion they give him, some man-made arrangement of them that happens to give him personal delight, a conception of clouds over distant mesas that makes one nerve in him thrill and tremble. At bottom all he can give you is the thrill of his own poor little nerve – the projection in paint of a fleeting pleasure in a certain combination of form and color as temporary and almost as physical as a taste on the tongue.”

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