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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

10th December 2022

Hello friends! We are well into the Christmas period now, and the frosty weather is finally pushing away my stress’ grasp on my Christmas cheer and letting it come out in full force. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel a bit snowed under, but when the sky is clear and the ground sparkling, and I can see my breath clearly in front of me, I just feel so at peace. It’s hard to explain how I can be stressed and calm and cheery at the same time, but I am. My free moments just feel more joyful and cosy. Christmas (and winter in general) is my favourite time of year. It’s a cosy and beautiful time of year when I like to slow down and enjoy all the little things. I love the long winter nights and how they invite me to keep my working hours (roughly) within the hours of daylight. Let’s just say that I truly believe It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I’d say I’m still on an upwards trajectory with my work, so that’s good. There’s a lot to get done, and the slope is far from straight, but on average we are still climbing. Last time we spoke I had just completed a painting – Proton-Proton Chain – and I can happily say that as of the 7th of December, I have officially started (painting) a new one! The priming took me a while, but it is complete and I couldn’t be happier to be getting properly started on this new adventure. It is based around the concept of the Sun’s magnetic field, how it is generated and twists and breaks and moves and affects what is around it.

The first thing I began to think about was the colour scheme I wanted to use. I liked the effect that my last colour scheme had (using a contrasting colour as a highlight) so decided I wanted to try something similar again. Now, a major theme of magnetic fields is how mysterious they are, I wanted this to be boldly portrayed in the painting, so the colour purple seemed like a good starting point. This also works nicely with an orange/yellow as the highlight colour – a hot colour, for a hot body (the sun). Orange/yellow also have a lot of visual energy to them, so they are also good for hopefully energising the calm purple. I also associate the colours blue and red with magnets (the bar magnets you use in primary school). This is also very neat as they are analogous with purple; they won’t detract from the contrast colour and can be used a bit more subtly if need be. They are also interesting as they visually push back and pull forwards respectively – I’m interested in using them to create the idea of spin and different rates of spin. With this in mind, the colours also relate to red-shift and blue-shift. If something is spinning then the light that reaches us from the side that is moving ‘towards’ us will be bluer and the side moving ‘away’ will be redder. This spin is important to me for the painting as it is the way the sun spins that get’s its magnetic field so tangled.

I’ve also been making notes, diagrams and compositional sketches around what I already know about the sun and its magnetic field, and what I want to know. I have now settled on a starting composition, as well as written an initial list of ‘key words’ to help get my head in the right space for the painting.

Twist. Break. Flow. Join. Pull. Push. Mystery. Boundary. Confusion. Spin. Loop. Writhe. Dance. Snap. Cycle.

I have done two material experiments. The first was based around the concept of oil repelling water. I poured an amount of oil onto a surface, followed by a watery acrylic paint mixture (although not too watery). Using the end of a paint brush I swirled and pushed the substances together and just left them to dry. The paint dried and the oil stayed sitting on the surface (I wiped it off using a little bit of washing up liquid in water which was very effective and didn’t seem to damage the acrylic paint). The shape left behind was and intriguing, with holes where the oil had pushed the paint out and the most interesting crater-like texture where the oil had sat on top of the acrylic as it dried. I am eager to use this technique, where appropriate, in an actual painting.

I also tried mixing acrylic paint with a tiny bit of washing up liquid (and water) and shaking it. I didn’t get the ratio quite right as it wasn’t as foamy as I wanted, but the bubbles that were in the mixture did create some interesting effects when dry so it was still a success. The bubbles created subtle layers of holes, creating a different sort of texture to the oil experiment. I don’t know what long term effect the mixing of washing up liquid will have on the paint, but it seems okay so far.

I have done some brainstorming of ideas for some point in the future… how soon in the future depends how life and painting and my course goes! I’ve been obsessing over the concept of creativity recently, and what it really means to be creative. Creating doesn’t necessarily equal creative. I've been pondering ideas around looking at things differently; collaboration, workshops and unconventional canvases. I won’t say too much for now, but I’m quite excited by a number of these half-formed ideas, so we’ll see where they take me. I may also go deeper into this idea of creativity another time, but for now I will not say more about that either. (Although even as I’m writing this, I’m suddenly realising I may have just figured out part of what I could write in my reflective document! How exciting!) (This sudden idea forming is a perfect example of why I like to write about, and discuss, my work; I can find connections between apparently unrelated things without even directly looking for them. Writing is just another form of thinking.)

Something else exciting I’ve been think about in the last week is how to present my work in an exhibition context (inspired by my upcoming deadline!!) The ‘lab reports’ I’m writing alongside my work are a bit of playful nod to science and experiment and learning, but what if I were to take this playfulness further? What if I were to use this idea in the physical space the audience inhabits while they view my work? More specifically, as my paintings are based of fairly complex physics, what if I took this idea of learning and took it out of it's academia and university context, and into a primary school one? Firstly, it’s just a nice juxtaposition, but what if I could transport my audience back to a place of childlike excitement, wonder and learning. I would also give the audience another little nudge in the direction of learning when they view the work without directly tellin them what to see. Perhaps I don’t need change the lighting or the sound in the room or the medium of the art to change the audience experience... The ‘experience’ of the art is very important to me and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Despite suggestions, I have been resistant to going remotely digital because I find there to be something really important about the physicality of the work (for myself and the viewer) – obviously don’t touch art in exhibitions (unless told to), but the fact that it would feel textured or smooth and real is powerful in itself. I like the fact that this new angle still sits within the completely 'real' setting. Importantly, it also takes you out of the gallery setting and into a liminal space.

Yesterday I went to a wonderful exhibition by a member of NTU’s physics department. I was very happy to see so many people there, however I was disappointed by the turn out from the art department. It didn’t stop it being a fantastic event though, and I’m so happy to have been there. The work was beautiful and the artist interesting; definitely worth the trip. The art department missed out on some wonderful art and a great opportunity. It was their loss.

All in all I think the last two weeks have been the best yet. I didn’t even realise quite how positive they were until writing this blog post. Sometimes it’s hard realise all you’ve achieved when you still have lots to do, but this has made me feel much more optimistic.

I hope all had a good fortnight and are keeping warm. Stay curious and creative, and I’ll see you after Christmas!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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