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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

An Abstract World

Hello once again my dearest chums. Despite being knackered as I write this due to noisy neighbours causing a lack of sleep, I’m in pretty high spirits! I’ve been pretty busy since my last post doing a fair amount of art. Still not at my ‘optimum’, but we’re slowly building it up! In today’s post, I want to talk about the abstract pieces I’ve been working on/ playing around with recently (two completed and one barely started).

I’ve been increasingly motivated and productive in all areas, not just art, and I can already see the impact on my confidence and inspiration levels. I’m back to getting up early, going for walks (sometimes with and sometimes without my sketchbook), getting a good bit done before lunch and just generally having much more relaxed days because I know I’ve given myself the time to not rush through my day. I’m spending more time reading and knitting and cooking and just doing all the relaxing things I like to do that I can only do if I feel I have the energy. I even baked bread this morning for the first time in what seems like forever! All in all, things are on the up.

You may recall a few blog posts ago I said I was working on/ had finished an abstract piece. The beginnings of the piece started simply with my gazing out the window of my bedroom doing nothing much at all… Then after the initial noticing and recording took place, the desire to create and explore came creeping in. The inspiration for my experiment was right before me in the form of a small piece of work from the last workshop I’d had before the end of term. I’d begun to dabble in how (and whether) to integrate this collaging idea into my practice, but due to it being so near the end of term I hadn’t explored it very thoroughly.

The first abstract piece I completed was composed by collaging the word rooftops (painted in large letters on a sheet of paper and then cut into strips) over the top of the drawing of rooftops I’d drawn from my bedroom window. I liked the idea that not only was I losing the word when it was cut up and rearranged, but also the image that was being described by the word. The thing that described the image was the thing that made it no longer recognisable as what it was. I also reflects rather well with my dislike of, and qualms around, naming my paintings as I don’t want my choice of words to influence the viewer’s reaction/response.

The more I think about it, the more I fall in love with this idea of layering/ collaging the world. Why should my paintings be one clear image when the world itself is not even that? When you go about your daily life, everything you see and experience is influenced by what and who is surrounding it. On a busy street you most likely focus on where you are headed and the people around you so as not to walk into them, but clear that street of people and you start to notice the buildings and the birds, the colour of the sky and the effect the sunlight or lack thereof has on the colour of the walls that surround you. If our view of the world is so easily changed, then does it not actually seem so beautifully fitting that I should change the way you see my subject of inspiration by what I put with it in the frame.

In my second painting, I used a section of an old composition from last term and a composition the same shape that I’d made with my leftover ‘rooftop strips’ from my last experiment and drew the two over the top of each other (refining and clearing any busy areas until I was satisfied). I painted this on a wooden panel that I’d gessoed in clear gesso to allow the material to show. I wanted to find a way to include the material of my board in the painting. Due to the background being so pale and warm, in order to create the depth I desire to find in all my pieces, I had to utilise the forms in the composition more than the contrast and temperature of the colours. This came more naturally than I expected (I thought it would be more of a battle) but I ended up creating a warm, summery, slightly washed out painting that just fitted the weather and my feelings on that day. I definitely was subconsciously responding to my environment as I was painting; I usually paint with much more intense colours. Even now when I look at it, I can almost feel the heat of that day.

My current work in progress once again uses collage but with a slightly different take. Inspired by some thumbnails I drew on my walk up Constitution Hill a couple of mornings ago, I have collaged together two different views from up the hill. When looking out across the town I am always drawn to two aspects – the hills and the shoreline. The houseless hills always make me realise how built up and grey the town is – it is the smooth curve created by the buildings I notice the shape of first rather than the actually very uneven and jaggedy shape created by the sand and rocks. By collaging these two things together I’m bringing together the natural and manmade, which (hopefully) will appear to fit flawlessly together as these things ideally should to create something entirely new.

With this new piece I’m revisiting an ‘old’ concept from my university work, while also exploring the new concept of changing what you see by what you put it with. (This concept also works well when considering colours - the same composition in a different colour scheme would look totally different!) With the new piece I will as usual also be focusing on creating depth in the images as, like I’ve said before, I believe my paintings to be new landscapes that I create.

This new idea of collaging I think actually fits in very well with my original entrance into my abstract world – the cubist like technique of superimposing multiple angles. Like that technique, I also believe that this collaging represents the passage of time. I am creating a situation/surrounding to alter your perception of a subject/setting. I take a place from a specific moment and then create a new moment for it to live in moving it out of the past. Time is change.

As I move on in my practice to experiment with new things, I notice how my starting points aren’t left in the past but are naturally integrated into my current work in small ways; they have had a huge effect on my way of looking, seeing and thinking. When I look at my work, I see connections with concepts I worked so hard on previously that I don’t have to think about so much anymore because I’ve taken what I need from them (for now) and integrated them into the groundwork of my painting practice. All the new ideas and techniques I explore become part of who I am as a painter, just as every other ‘era’ in my painting journey has is the past. The journey forward isn’t always so obvious, but looking back everything just makes so much sense.

I should probably leave my ramblings here for now. I’m sure I’ll say more another time, but I’ll go on forever if I don’t stop now. I hope you found my rambling interesting and I’ll see you in the next one!


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