After moving to Sweden in December 2018, I decided to begin work on a new collection of paintings. I knew only that I wanted to experiment and find a new approach - using thickened paint.
By mixing acrylic paint with baby powder and PVA glue, I was able to make the paint behave in interesting ways - creating a wide variety of splatters and globules that retain sculptural forms once they dry on the canvas.
Many of these abstract pieces are inspired by the natural world. The one above, for example, is designed to evoke a jungle scene. Others, such as the one below, are an enquiry into the interrelationships between different colours - in this case; pink, acid yellow, and orange.
Both of these pieces are 120x60cm. They are untitled.
While these two work well as companion pieces, they can also be displayed individually. They represent a progression in terms of style and method, as I have begun using wall filler as a mixing agent for the paint, in addition to the baby powder / PVA glue solution. This new material is coarse in texture and available to me in large quantities, as it is cheap to buy. I can use it for building up large structures on the canvas, such as the heavy storm clouds in these paintings, which can then be overlaid with the finer rope-like splatters made possible with the baby powder and PVA glue.
In addition to the different kinds of thickened paint, I have used water to make the paint thinner, opening up more possibilities for mark-making.
Continuing the storm series, I have used contrasting splatter techniques to create different impressions with these two pieces. For Pink Twister I have applied lots of fine splattering using watered-down paint to create a starry cloud effect, centred on the tornado-like spout that dominates the canvas. For Cloud Burst, I have applied lots of rope-like splatters using baby powder-based paint mix, to give the impression of bright sunshine bursting through a rain cloud.
Spring flowers in the rain
This is an impressionistic depiction of smoke rising from chimneys. I used a more muted colour palette for this piece, focussing on warm and cool greys, as well as shades of brown, which complement the pink and lilac hues in the lower half of the canvas, as well as the fiery hues in the upper half.
In terms of mark-making, I used finger prints and swipes, in addition to rope-like splatters, overlaying the smudged-in chimney stacks.
~ Music of the Spheroids ~
Three canvasses, each 65x90cm
For this piece I wanted to use particular kinds of mark-making to create a triptych. In particular, I focussed on splatter and dribble effects.
I started with three rough egg shapes arranged vertically in ascending size and then dribbled watered-down acrylic paint over the top of these shapes. On top of this are the rope-like splatters made possible by the baby powder mix, the rougher high impact splatters created by the wall filler mix, and clouds of fine splatters made by watered-down paint.
By keeping the composition fairly uniform across the three canvasses, I have relied on colour and texture to create areas of differentiation that should visually complement each other when the three canvasses are seen alongside each other on the wall.
For these large pieces I have returned to working with stripes - an enquiry that began a few years ago, when I was painting pictures of buzzards. Despite working in a completely different style, I have used similarly contrasting colour palettes to the ones I used on two paintings of vultures I did back in 2015. These are predominantly dark and heavy reds, offset with blue and yellow-green, contrasting acid yellows, pink, lilac and lime green.
I began both pieces with masked-off vertical columns that I smudged with paint using my fingers, then I built up layers using wall filler and baby powder-based paint mixes, interspersed with paint dribbles and large amounts of fine splattering using watered-down paint. The intention being: to create extremely rich depths of colour and texture across the canvas that can be appreciated up close and at distance.
I wanted to experiment further with paint pouring. As before, I was interested in the ways in which the little streams of paint would interact with the sculptural forms that were already in place on the canvas. To emphasise these interactions, I threw a lot of baby powder and wall filler-based paint mixes at the central area of the canvas, while leaving the extremities relatively clear. I used a lot of white thickened paint mixtures to create relief forms on the canvas that would be evidenced by the shadows they create, as well as the effect they have on the paint runnels.
I was also interested in creating sharp edges to juxtapose the organic shapes that are inevitable with splattering and paint pouring. To create this edge along the top of the canvas, I first prepared the area using tape and layers of white paint to build up minuscule near-invisible raised edges that would prevent the watered-down paint from spreading. Then I poured the paint and let gravity do the rest.
Continuing with the paint pouring and the sharp edges, I started with geometric box shapes painted onto the canvas and poured paint first from one side and then to the other. Then it was the usual splatter fest, using lots of wall filler and baby powder paint mixes.
Strange lights inside the gold mine
For this triptych I have continued with paint pouring and splattering, in conjunction with painting geometric shapes on the canvas. I have reduced the amount of splattering for these pieces so that the individual forms can be appreciated in isolation, instead of fusing together into larger-scale impressions, as has been the case up till now.
As I continue with this enquiry into abstract painting, I find that the preservation of open unadorned space on the canvas becomes more important. The open space on these canvasses allows tension to develop between the stark geometric shapes and the splatters that overlay them.
Each canvas is 65x90cm.
These small canvasses range from 30x40cm to 40x50cm. I produced eighteen of these towards the end of 2019, the aim being to have a range of smaller pieces that would hopefully be appealing to gallery visitors who do not have the money or the wall space on their walls for a large canvas. Working on these small pieces has been very rewarding as it has enabled me to experiment with a range of new techniques - including cutting into the canvas and wiring in strings of LED lights.
The various paint mixtures have enabled me to experiment with a variety of mark-making, as these close-up images reveal...
These are small - just 40cmx50cm. I wanted to experiment with a more minimal style, while also using the thickened paint to build out from the canvas. I started with white paint, then for each subsequent layer I added a little more colour to create topographical regions, like miniature mountain ranges. I was particularly interested in using the edges of the canvases for large, overhanging paint globules...
These close-up shots below show the layering of paint, plus the stupendous paint globules creeping over the edges...