Colour, Space and Abstraction

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Black Ashop Moor. Mixed media painting on paper. 15x10ins. Although there is some sense of space in this work, I didn’t deliberately concentrate on trying to paint it as I worked. Grey and mauve predominate and those colours themselves often suggest distance.

In paintings I completed recently I’ve had to think more about depicting a sense of space while, at the same time, using more of the abstract elements that feature in my work. Most paintings that attempt some kind of realism also, in many cases, attempt to depict space in some way. This is the difficulty in abstract or semi-abstract work: making decisions about whether to make a feature of the picture plane or how far back to push it. Representing space is one of the most difficult aspects of painting and artists have come up with many different methods of showing or implying it in their work.

In my own paintings I don’t worry too much about how I represent space, but I feel it does have to be represented in some way. In art that is completely abstract, there is no real need to portray a sense of depth, The flat picture plane aids the artist in his selection of colour, shape and texture. Even some semi-abstract works pay scant heed to conventions of representing depth. In my own paintings one can hopefully get some kind of a sense of space; this is a deliberate thing, although if the painting works without it I don’t worry too much. I don’t set out to paint in a particularly abstract way, or even strive for complete realism. I know my work has abstract qualities and I often deliberately stress those in particular paintings. Dots and splatters of paint often suggest rocks, stones and scree, broken or crumbling dry stone walls; wheels ruts and tracks are indicated by meandering lines. All these elements are abstract in nature and I’m aware they don’t necessarily have much to do with a representation of space when I paint them.

Space is often implied by colour and by using certain hues a sense of recession can be hinted at. In the painting Moorland Towards Rowarth shown below, most of the colour towards the horizon is deliberately kept to a blue, grey or mauve, implying that the landscape is receding into the distance. This, along with the fact that the colour in that area has been applied in thin bands that could be either hills or clouds, and the foreground, too, is little more than an abstract area of daubs, lines and dots, implies a sense of distance.

Moorland Towards Rowarth. Mixed media on board. 20x16ins. By blocking out the top third of the painting you’re left with a completely abstract image of dots, lines and daubs that are merely suggestive of landscape elements.

Painting an abstract or semi-abstract work is just as difficult as painting a representational one and as much thought goes into their design, composition and execution as any other piece, if not more. Everything has to work in a much more coherent way. The contiguity of line, shape and colour needs to be considered extremely carefully if the work is to be successful.

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