Black and White Exhibition
Black and white monochrome art has been used since the Middle Ages, and can be traced back to the Cistercian Monastic order. In 1134 the head of the order, Bernard of Clairvaux created a legal document on aesthetics, stipulating that all decoration in his Cistercian monasteries could only be in black and white. His belief was that colour was superfluous and could lead to the over-stimulation of senses. His monasteries were a space for prayer and meditation, so all their stained glass and illuminated manuscripts were painted in monochrome. Artists equally embraced the elimination of colour as it gave them the freedom to concentrate on light and shadows, with a particular focus on how light and shadow fall on objects, or on the scene being painted.
The wide range of possibilities of interpretation of monochrome paintings, and the emphasis on feeling is probably one of the reasons for its popularity with artists - monochromatic artworks can provoke deeply personal experiences and strong emotions. A reduction in the palette means an artist can draw the viewer’s attention to a particular subject, concept or technique. Moreover, painting in black and white gives more artistic freedom, as artists no longer have the complexities of working in colour. Therefore, artists can concentrate on form, textures, mark making and symbolic meaning. Black and white can also be used to maximise impact with the stark contrast between black and white emphasizing the message and depictions.
Black and white is often used to represent opposites, for example, white represent light, whereas black represents darkness. Furthermore, white can symbolise goodness, peace, innocence and purity. Whereas, black can symbolise evil, war, or even death. Additionally, black could be used as a means of concealment to create a sense of mystery, intrigue or foreboding. Although black and white are opposites, they do not always have to signify difference, and can exist together in harmony.
Black and white art has played a significant role in modern and contemporary art, and it continues to influence contemporary art today. Often, we see an increase in popularity of monochromatic painting at times when there are aesthetic and socio-political upheavals.
Curated by Sonja Seear @sonja_martin_photography and
Lea Friant @dottedleaf
How did you embark on your artistic journey?
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember. My mother, Lindsay Page, is a landscape painter. So I used to sit on the floor and draw while she painted in her studio. I also enjoyed looking at her art books, where I first discovered two favourite French painters, Bonnard and Nicolaas de Stael, and that way I discovered there were so many different ways of seeing the world. My mother always took me along to exhibitions and I met a lot of wonderful artists, so I was really steeped in art from an early age. But I never thought it would become my life's work until I eventually opted to study Fine Art. I was also studying drama, but it wasn’t long before I was completely hooked on art. I loved the lectures too, a whole world of art opening up to me across the centuries. A Masters of Fine Art later on allowed me to intensify this exploration as my life work. I opted for painting as my chosen form of expression, because of the alchemy of oil paint, the joy of colour and the seemingly endless possibilities of the medium. In a sense you have to find your own language to explore the world.
Which words best describe your artistic style?
I would say incandescent, jazzy, shifting, playful and free.
Drawing for me is fundamental, a way of being in the world. I have a playful approach to the layering of different media, the more unexpected the better. I keep myself constantly surprised and entertained with what happens as I work back into the pages of my sketchbooks. It is where my visual language develops. New discoveries ensure that my approach back in the studio stays fresh and playful.
What techniques and materials do you employ in creating your work?
I love paint and the whole bodily, sensory, alchemical process of painting. Recently I have been experimenting with spray paint, building up a luminous structure to which I can return with freer gestural drawing in ink and oils, based on things observed and recorded in my sketchbooks.
How do you select the colours, shapes and textures for your paintings?
Can you describe your creative process?
How do you tackle challenges or difficulties encountered during your creative process?
I don’t have a pre-meditated idea of colours, shapes, textures, etc . I may have a feeling at the outset or a desire to work with a particular palette, way of painting, or composition, but this can change. I work on many pieces at once so that I allow the process of work to take over from any preciousness about a finished product. Sometimes things have to be balanced as you go along and sometimes you have to fight against the habit of prettiness, risk something, erase something, in order to find something new. In this way I welcome challenges and difficulties within my work. If I really feel stuck, I move onto another work or go out - go drawing, out into the city, go swimming. Completion of a painting must always take me by surprise. Some paintings take ages to complete. Others are more like drawings happening with an immediacy in the moment - then you have to learn to leave them alone.
What message or emotion do you aim to convey through your art
What themes or messages do you explore or address in your works?
I love the patina of cities, the sense of layers of stories happening and living on within the walls and foundations of a city; also the sense of chance juxtapositions where lives and stories interact across time and space. As an artist of the city, that is always what has interested me. I venture into wild places too, often engendering a new approach to my painting, something gestural and incandescent that must happen in the moment.
I don’t set out to convey a particular emotion or feeling but I have come to realize that my painting is essentially hopeful. It’s about loving the world through noticing and seeing it through all its chaos. Although my paintings may first appear as quite abstract they are really about an engagement with the world. I am interested in everything, and so essentially the subjects I engage with as I move through the world are constantly changing. It’s a kind of language that unifies the work. And maybe place, living between places - a constant tussle between the places of specific rootedness near my home and studio and these layers, shifting, sliding doors of other places visited, remembered or imagined.
I like my paintings to prompt conversations; the abstract nature of them allows for multiple interpretations. Isn’t all painting essentially abstract? They become like portals into new possibilities of experience. It doesn’t matter whether I am painting a journey through a forest or an experience of a city - the painting is essentially itself and always open to prompt new thoughts and feelings in the viewer.
Who are your artistic references or influences? Are there informal artists you particularly admire or who have inspired you?
As a painter you work alongside a whole world of other painters through time and space. It's important to get to know them and understand at least some of them. Over the years it has always been a particular thrill to be able to stand and draw breath in front of a painting, exactly where a favourite artist has stood, like I did with Cezanne recently. It’s such a joy to look and get up close and really appreciate what is going on - and it’s often a whole lot looser and riskier than you might think from illustrations of the work. Two exhibitions in London last year, Alice Neel and Philip Guston, were recent highlights. I have also stood close to Masaccio frescoes in Florence and appreciated his use of abstract colour, and then Morandi’s still life paintings in Rome that elevate the perception of the ordinary into a new realm.
This is the only way to really experience painting. Having said that, it is wonderful to discover a world of other artists through instagram, interviews and podcasts like this one. I think I am drawn to work where there is a sense of mystery - how did the artist get there? And in abstract painting sometimes clues that pull the viewer a little back into the visible world. In my own paintings, it’s often a balance between a kind of precision one finds in drawing, a kind of anchoring through what I have seen and noticed, and then an openness - there has to be a tension between the drawing and the open structure carried into being through the process. As someone else said, ‘mathematics and light’.
Some questions to get to know the artist: the beginning, inspiration, technique, challenges, message, education, and future projects.
I grew up with two older sisters. One introduced me to Picasso and other 20th century artists at a very early age. For reasons I cannot explain, I was then, and continue to be, drawn to the art of the 20th century.
My paintings explore my inner travels through the universe and my way of seeing stars, planets, moons and other celestial bodies. While the work is abstracted and reflects representational matter, I focus on each work's formal qualities; its shapes, colors, textures and overall composition.
The paintings in my BLOCKED series are bound by geometrical grids, but beyond these rigid structures, forms and lines swirl, freely creating their own governing rules.
What interests me is the process of layering materials to achieve a rich texture and depth on the canvas. All my works contain acrylic and spray paints, inks, gels and stencils on canvas. Occasionally I add mixed media elements to the surface of the painting.
Most works include circles, lines and organic shapes that intersect or blocked at certain points of the work. There are many layers to my paintings and colors develop while in the painting process.
As I've grown and encountered the various facets of life, I have developed a heightened sensitivity to the intricate emotion and subtleties within every brushstroke.
My current work belongs to both the 20th century and today. It's infused with my design sensibilties-balance, color, texture, scale, media and space-while harkening back to the work I hve admired my entire life.
The past artists that influenced me are many! I have always been strongly influenced by Impressionist painters, particularly ones that worked with environmental themes in the outdoors. As I mentioned Picasso was an early influence, plus Chagall, Motherwell, Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin,Richter and Nick Cave. I am also influenced by Japanese woodblocks and African sculpture.
What interests me is the process of layering materials to acheive a rich texture and depth on the canvas. From a distance, you'll see the layers showing through one another and depth of the materials. But as you move closer to its surface, you will see the layers showing through one another and depth of the materals.
All my works have layers upon layers to the canvas. The process of adding and subtracting, sometimes up to 10 to 12 or more changes/additions to the canvas. A painting can take around a week and longer to complete, but is a work ever completed?
I have a Bachelors degree of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University
Study at Accademia di Belle Arte in Perugia, Italy
Study at Cite International University in Paris, France
Study, worked and lived in New York City for 13 years
Currently I live and work in Chicago, IL
I would love to work on much larger canvases, my preference is square shape. Maybe think about geometric shapes like Frank Stella's protractor series from the 1970's? I would love to do large abstract backdrops for a ballet, theatrical or musical performances.
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