Transforming the Light

Transforming the Light

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'Transforming the Light' (detail), abstract painting in orange and yellow with gold jos paper elements - pigments, acrylics & jos papers on canvas, 110 x 110cm, 2009

Transforming the Light Andalucia

Living in Andalucia for 7 years meant exposure to sunlight for over 300 days per year. Often this was blistering, squinting light – the type that etches frown lines deep into the skin on your face. It was brutal. These paintings were commissioned by a couple who had lived in Zimbabwe, another place with brutal light and also a sense of violence and fear.

Shine oil, ink, pigments & jos papers on canvas

I began with Chinese jos papers (reflective gold papers used in death rites) which I tore into uniform strips and organised onto on a rich orange pigment ground. One painting was then covered with black Chinese ink, in swirls reminiscent of the wrought iron gates that protected the couple’s family home in Zim, which was later rubbed away and erased as much as possible, leaving smudges and echoes behind.

All the paintings were varnished, but with different finishes from high gloss to matt, exploring the effect this final layer had on the reflective gold jos papers. The finished paintings seem uneasy – shiny yet spoiled, bright but unsettled, easy on the eye but with nagging undercurrents.

Transforming the Light pigments, acrylics & jos papers on canvas

In the subsequent paintings, I changed the format, stretching it longer and thinner in one, and squaring it up in the other. Again the process took the form of ritually laying down layers of pigments, then jos papers then paint, but this time there was no rubbing back or fusing of the layers – they simply lie one on top of the other.

The effect is, I think, a less convoluted painting that is easier on the eye (and in the living room!). It’s no accident that it hangs on the fireplace in the clients’ home – they say looking at it is like looking at flames dancing in the hearth.

‘Shine’ on the other hand evokes more of a brooding feeling and is perhaps a more intriguing painting. It isn’t necessarily instantly likeable, but reveals itself over time and has more depth or longevity to it.

Transforming the Light was last modified: April 13th, 2015 by Michelle Rumney

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