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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

Week 5: 28th February - 6th March

Hello friends! I can’t believe I’m writing week five’s blog, what the heck?? Time has been really flying, and this week especially, I feel like I've blinked and missed it! I’ve been busy though, and had multiple moments where I wanted to cry (both from stress and pride). The end of the semester and the degree show feel very real and very close now and is part of the reason I’m feeling so emotional. I can’t believe it’s ending, but I also cannot wait to see my work displayed on the wall in the exhibition (and also am very stressed about all the work that goes into that). I do feel very proud of everything I’ve achieved so far, and can’t believe how far I’ve come over the past three years. It’s been a rollercoaster, especially with Covid, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it as it really shaped the artist and person I’ve now become. Enough with that though, let’s get into what I’ve actually been doing this past week.

As usual, I’ve been busy in the studio, completing and starting paintings. One emotional moment this week was when I resolved M31 radio. At the start of the week I only had the bare bones on the board and I was worried that I might find it a bit of a struggle to complete, but I just got to work, pushing back the business I’d started to build up the week before. I also did some further research into the radio imaging of M31 to really try and get to grips with what exactly I was painting. I did find it really helped guide my painting, because I knew what areas were most important to emphasise and what areas where less important in representing the object. The radio image showed the star forming regions of the galaxy that were abundant in hydrogen and so I knew I wanted the painting to have a sense of glowing light to it.

In my frustration on Monday, I decided to pour some more paint onto the image and I’m so glad I did. It laid down the groundwork for me being able to find the structure of the painting again. I also once again utilised Affinity Photo to help me bring out the important structures without the fear of ruining the good work I’d already done. After that it needed very little tweaking to make it come alive.

As you probably already guess, I’m very happy with M31. Firstly, the colour combination I picked is very successful. It is fun, and successfully gives off the atmosphere I was aiming for, for each individual painting. The scale of the pair is also fabulous, they really grasp your attention and fill your whole field of view. I also enjoy the size of the paintings because they allow you to see the ‘big picture’ and the details at the same time. They are a statement, and would be hard to walk past with their striking colours: this is important as I want to draw people in to spark their curiosity in the subject matter. One is clearly a close-up image, filling the whole board and extending off the edges, the other is clearly a whole object in the middle of the board. I think the radio image was a big leap from 3C 461 radio, capturing the softness and the business, but also achieving more balance and structure than the previous painting. I think it highly likely that this pair will go up on the wall for the degree show, and I can’t wait for people that have only seen photos to see them in person as they have so much more presence.

I’ve also been busy priming some more large boards for my next diptych which I have now officially started; putting down some initial colour once I’d finalised my compositions. Like I said last week, it took a lot more research to decide on the compositions, as Sagittarius A is a rather mysterious object. I think I’ll probably continue to research it as I progress my paintings, just to make sure I understand what I’m trying to paint – I do want to maybe lean in to the mystery of the object in my paintings as I think the unknown is as important a thing to consider in science as the hard facts. Sometimes we don’t know, but that’s exciting because it just means there is more to learn and figure out!

I should also probably mention all the colour mixing I had to do before I could start Sgr A, it was a lot. But it was made slightly easier by the research on colour association I did first because it helped my pick what colours; I only had to then choose the shade! I settled on purple and red, hoping to show power and mystery… Let’s hope I’m as happy with the colour scheme as I was with M31.

I didn’t just research colours and science this week though, I also did a good amount of artist research and pondering on past artist research; I can see a fairly large influence in my work from Abstract Expressionism. While I haven’t looked at many Abstract Expressionists specifically this semester, over the last two years I’ve not only looked at a lot of people involved in the movement, but also a number that have been themselves influenced by it. I can see their influence in my use of geometric forms and colour (e.g. Mark Rothko, Sam Gilliam), and in my love of expressive marks (e.g. Lee Krasner). I think this is a beautiful example of why artist research does actually matter (I know, past me!). It doesn’t make you paint like them, but if you take the time to really look and notice things, it will creep into the back of your mind and come through in your work.

This week I looked at: John Hoyland, Tomás Saraceno and Georgia O’Keeffe. Similarly to earlier in the semester, I created a list of all the important things to think about and learn from all the artists I looked at since I made the other list in… potentially week two?

o Scientific understanding – accuracy

o Experience – human tendencies – pattern, colour…

o Catching interest to activate ‘long-term thinking’


o Sweeping, flowing movements

o Glazing – luminosity

o Surface distress…

o Astronomy knowledge + artistic imagination

o Value range

o ACTION to mark (Energy to visual energy)

o Light from behind

o Sensation

o Immersive

o Materials to represent physical properties/systems

o Calm paired with chaos (ORDER AND CHAOS!!) (diptych)

o “Paintings are there to be experienced, they are events” John Hoyland 1979

o Empty space

o Directional lines


Next week I want to really focus on progressing both Sgr As. I think further science research alongside is important to help guide me and ensure my understanding.

I also want to contemplate the additional suite of works more as I’m a little stumped on what to do… I’m sure something with come to me at some point soon…

Finding more science artists (preferably astronomy-based ones) is important to understanding what people are currently doing in my specific area of interest. It will hopefully inspire me, as well as helping me be original.

I would also love to get my artist statement honed and submitted within the next week and a bit as: a) it would be one more thing out the way, and b) I want to have it translated into Welsh (which I can’t do myself so need to submit in time to have someone else do it). As a non-Welsh person and a non-Welsh speaker, you may be curious as to why I want this. Firstly, for my mum, but also because I want to appeal to the locals who might be coming to view the exhibition. I want to make them feel seen, because the aim of my work is to make space appeal to everyone. Astronomy and art are for every age, gender and nationality.

That is all for today folks. I know this is a little late going up, but sometimes you just have to rest to be more productive in the long run. I hope you all have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next time!


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