Just before Christmas I wrote about a visit to Upper Teesdale to collect desmids (see “Hunting for desmids in Upper Teesdale”) and mentioned that I was working towards a painting. That painting is now finished and is reproduced below. The style of this painting is quite to the other pictures I’ve been working on recently, drawing on ideas I explored during the final year of my Fine Art degree. I was interested, during this period, in exploring the boundaries between figurative and abstract art and found algae to be an ideal resource for this investigation. To me, they are living organisms with defined parameters yet they are beyond the boundaries of most people’s sense of reality. “Most people” included my tutors and this led to some challenging discussions about just how far I could alter the shapes and colours I was using. They felt that I was too rigid and unwilling to push my artistic experiments too far. In many ways they were right but there were also times when I felt that they were asking me to do the phycological equivalent of drawing a cow with five legs.
Upper Teesdale. 2015. 86 x 91 cm. Acrylic on canvas,
The picture shows five different desmids that I collected from Upper Teesdale in December. To me, these organisms are as much a characteristic of the area as the more famous gentians (see “Blue skies and blue flowers in Upper Teesdale”) and to present them in an context that evokes abstract art emphasises the lack of familiarity that most of the visitors to this area has to these organisms.
The lower picture shows a close-up of some of the desmids in the picture, to show how the painting was built up as a series of washes of very dilute acrylic paint over a white ground, with the details of the desmid blocked out in stages using masking fluid. The result is a “negative” image of each of the desmids. The final stage of the painting was to use a syringe to add translucent trails of paint thinned with acrylic gloss medium to give a translucent effect that imparts some visual energy into the finished picture.
You can see more work on this general theme at http://www.martynkelly.co.uk/other_paintings.html.
Upper Teesdale. Detail.