In January I experienced a flurry of creative activity. This was inseminated by an upcoming gallery exhibition themed around the colour red (for Valentine’s Day) – and in which I had hoped to participate. I realised that the sixteen leftover terra verte panels from my big silverpoint project could provide a great background for splashes of its complement: venetian red. Terre verte (consisting of celadonite and glauconite) and venetian red (iron oxide or hematite) are both ancient earth pigments with a long history of artistic usage. As stand alone colours or complements they evoke a deeply grounded reaction which is far more subtle than the bright cadmium reds and/or the phthalo greens of the modern palette. For myself, I don’t mind shocks of colour, but my temperament is generally interested in subtlety so I decided to give this little tryst a try.
On each panel I transposed a design (from one of the sixty four panels of the silverpoint project) that I already thought had potential as a stand alone composition. I worked up these silverpoint drawings and washed in the titanium white highlights as usual. That was the realistic phase. After fixing this layer I began abstraction by spattering in dilutions of titanium white. After that dried I covered each panel with some acrylic transparent glaze/extender, dipped a large synthetic brush into some Venetian red and slashed across the underlying composition. In some cases I did this to each panel, that is, individually, in other cases I did it to groups of four which, when placed together, formed a deconstructed yet still realistic section of the original image.
I liked these red slashes yet, I also felt the need to reiterate/reintegrate the terre verte. So I mixed some of that up and spattered it across the panels. Nice, it created a complementary “pop/contrast” as well as the harmony that I was looking for. The panels were now done, but still, I was only halfway.
The next question: how to display them?
I glued little wooden strips to the back of each (MDF) panel. This allowed me to staple in a piece of velcro. I then built some plywood backing boards to receive the companion side of the velcro. I washed these boards with white gesso (to reduce the visual contrast of the naked plywood). Nice, but ultimately I decided against white and coated the backing boards with a layer of venetian red. This supplied the superimposed panels with a solid warm border/base, allowing them to be spotlighted/ to shine.
I called the group of individual panels “Random Acts of Kindness”, while the groupings with four interrelated panels received a name appropriate to their original imagery, “Let’s get to the Heart of the Matter” and “Casablanca-Rosa”, respectively, see the illustrations above. Oh, and “no hard feelings but”, they were not selected for the galley exhibition. 😦 Still, I’m grateful for the stimulus and am sure they will find a happy home someday, somewhere.