Over the past couple of months, I have been working hard in the studio at developing a new, less restrictive style of painting than the astronomical art I dedicated the last year to. I have learned a lot from astronomical imagery- specifically, using the juxtaposition of wispy glazes and pointillism (using a slight variation in sizes of small dots) to create the illusion of spatial depth.
I have created this visual language that I love, but I want to do more with it conceptually. I definitely want to continue using pointillism, as at this point I really feel that the dots have begun to overtake my life- I paint them on everything, from my clothes to my shoes to easels in the studio to my phone’s case- and I am OK with that. I have chosen to explore abstract painting, as it is a field I have not experimented with much in my paintings, and I find abstraction rather challenging as I am used to placing an object against a ground in my work (and my professors say I am still having trouble with this even now!).
I am currently working with simple geometric shapes with pointillism connected by lines or swirls against a ground, experimenting with colour palettes and atmospheres in the process using the work of Yayoi Kusama, Phil Guston and Kasemir Malevich as inspiration, as well as a variety of images I have collected on a Pinterest board specifically for this painting series.
I will still be available for astronomical art and space art commissions! I will now also accept abstract commissions.
This is the first abstract piece I began to experiment with. For me, this felt like a natural progression from the astronomical work I spent the past year on, combining microbiological imagery of cells and viruses with floating planets and suns. I chose “Bioform” as a title as it was simple and suggestive of its biological inspiration; I continued to use the “-form” suffix in order to work with several numbered series, so I could move on from a piece and continue to develop the imagery further in the next one without becoming attached to it and considering it “finished” by giving it some sort of lofty title.
With this piece, I decided to explore the idea of mass communication, with a more complex network or “web” connecting the separate entities. The suspended orbs are painted in a cool palette to contrast with the rich red of the ground; I varied the tones of the orbs to give them a sense of order and purpose. I left the filaments connecting them fragile to hint at the nature of the connections and contrast against the definite specific nature of the dots surrounding the orbs.
Inspired by Philip Guston, I chose a restricted colour palette of white, red and grey, starting with a red ground and adding washes of neutral grey to let the red show through. I decided to explore the molecular imagery further, creating orbs from loose washes of cadmium red and quinacridone crimson and encrusting them with little dots to create a vibrating optical effect between the vague patches of colour in the background and the definite dots of white in the foreground. I also experimented with adding dots in the filaments this time.
At this point, I began to work on some pieces to donate to the College of Charleston Visual Arts Club Cheap Art Auction Fundraiser on February 25th; the following pieces in this post will all be on sale at the event, as well as the Flying Spaghetti Monster painting. The nature of the auction dictated work that did not require ponderous effort, so I used the opportunity to produce some quick pieces to simplify and explore the imagery I would like to use further in larger pieces.
I am very interested in the symbolic motif of the circle with an extending line; it appears very commonly in our society and is suggestive of many things (signposts, lollipops, lamps, certain flowers, dandelion seed heads, a standing figure, an awl). I made a few quick motifs on canvas board which I entitled “Phytoform” due to its floral resemblance:
I chose a bright, solid teal ground on which to lay this motif; I was inspired by textile design and graphic design to contrast a strong background colour with the tiny dots, which become delicate in this context, and the wispy, feathery, ribbony line emerging from it.
I most like the spaces in between the dots in this one. When I’m working in pointillism to fill an area, I work from the outside in, doing a layer of widely-spaced dots and then filling in the spaces in between the dots until the spaces are either completely filled or are filled just enough to seem right to me. In the end, the spaces are what I’m looking at while working, not the dots themselves.
Acrylic on canvas board, 10”x22”
I chose another strong colour for the background here, but altered the composition to include two “figures”; at this point, I began to anthropomorphize the motif, as it reminded me of my boyfriend and I!
Enamel and gouache on paper
I tried another version of the motif at home (without access to my studio materials) using a stencil I made and black matte spray paint on paper, with white gesso and toothpicks for the dots. I did spray another version where the stencil did not bleed, but I ended up liking this one much more and worked with it instead. The black and white contrast brought the motif back to an astronomical theme for me; it reminds me of looking through a keyhole into the universe. I feel this is the most successful of the Phytoform series so far. I would like to explore working in pointillism over the spontaneous ink bleeds more.
I then explored the idea of the “pocket universe” through another enamel-and-gesso piece:
I don’t like it as much.
What I am most interested in at the moment is exploring the idea of the combined micro/macro view, as well as pushing my usage of pointillism further. I have begun to blend my dots into the background by using multiple washes of background colours and working in pointillism with the lightest one:
I want the viewer to work hard in order to absorb my work. In this one, as you look at one part of the painting (in person; the effect is naturally lost when photographed and viewed at once), the dots on the other side disappear and the viewer is forced to look at the first area again. I really like the idea that something completely static can still move and disappear. I think this effect will be much greater on a large scale.
I have a large series of prints to upload; I will write a blog post about them soon. I have also recently rediscovered my adoration of Naples Yellow and Neutral Grey no. 5.
What do you think of my new work and the concepts I am trying to explore? Are my ideas successfully realized? Does this abstract work create visual interest for you? I would love to hear your feedback and criticism, since I’m still working very hard on developing this style!