Black and white is still my obsession. The world in colour is starting to look quite odd to me when in my art and in my head it is firmly in black and white at the moment. I have become quite addicted to monochrome painting now and I can’t seem to stop painting without colour. I don’t quite know what it is about the ‘colours’ black, white and grey that fascinate me so much. I just love the challenge of taking out colour, not thinking about colour and blending with two shades. It is almost as if I am drawing with paint.
In this current journey, I have been deliberately selecting objects that rely heavily on colour as part of their identity. These objects have come to my mind randomly as I’ve been walking around the house, such as this one.
I quite like the idea of a monochrome Rubik’s Cube, with six shades of grey.
I have also been looking at skin tone in greys, which has been more difficult than ordinary objects. The essence of the appearance of skin loses the qualities of warmth and life once you remove the colour from it. It is no longer ‘essence’ in fact, just skin. Taking away the colour ‘deadens’ the flesh, especially if the background, as in this case, retains colour. And indeed the background here is fleshy coloured and has a warmth to it. However, I think the monochrome skin has a new quality. There is an uncanniness about it. It is perhaps slightly abject, because of the sense of death it brings to mind.
I have also continued to paint items of food devoid of colour.
As well as painting on the linen surface, which I love, I have been looking at the effect of painting with a white, smooth background. Painting ‘colourful’ objects on a white background changes the effect, different from on the linen. It pushes the object much further out and creates a sense of the object being suspended in space.
There’s something very odd about food without colour. Can the viewer identify this object without colour?
The colour of chocolate is extremely important to its identity and effect on the viewer, so removing the colour actually changes the object’s identity entirely. These could be any sort of curved disks.
I’m not sure yet where this is leading me, but I am thoroughly enjoying returning to the ‘basics’ of painting. I haven’t painted much since I started the Foundation Degree five years ago. But then my art has always been about the concept coming first, and in this case the concept leads me to paint.
I did get the chance to exhibit some of my black-and-white studies at a pop-up exhibition organised by the university in Sutton Coldfield. I made the deliberate decision to mount a selection of my black-and-white still lifes (the fried egg, the baked beans, the gin, the Cornish pasty), and a few early self-portrait images of parts of my body (a selection of six images), on mirrored pillars. I thought they looked quite effective on the mirrored surfaces and there was a certain irony to self-portraits, especially my rather stylised ones, being on mirrors.
The exhibition as a whole was a mix of work from MA and BA students and my pieces were a little lost amongst everything else. There were quite a lot of large works and installation pieces on show. My paintings are small and do not lend naturally to such a large open-plan venue.
The exhibition was a good experience, however, in terms of working on a collaborative project with many other artists. This wasn’t my first pop-up exhibition (previously I have exhibited in an old supermarket in Shrewsbury). It was tough for me, though, as Sutton Coldfield is a long way from my home and having three children made it difficult for me to offer time for manning the exhibition. I couldn’t offer any time. I was able to help set up, help take away and attend the opening.
Exhibiting offers an opportunity to gain feedback and I only received positive comments.