I have an obsession with black. It has depth, resonance and feels perfectly mysterious. The inky darkness invites and pushes back all at the same time. I think it is this dichotomy that compels me and has me willing to engage the challenge that it can present. While it can be a powerful player in a painting, it also can feel quiet and calming.
I’ve always loved working with neutrals and black seems to be my go to pigment in my work. It started, I believe, when I discovered my passion for drawing with charcoal. There was something so juicy about making gutsy, dense black lines and forms – crumbling, smudging, fingers blackened.
For many years these vaporous black forms appeared in my work on Mylar. As charcoal shapes merged with oil paint, the forms seemed to take on new meaning – buried, emerging, dissolving and containing something yet to be discovered.
I often felt self-conscious of this darkness that arrived in my work. If our art is a reflection of our inner state, then what is this saying about me? Do I have something lurking inside that I am unwilling to acknowledge? Does anyone really want a dark painting?
As an artist authenticity is the destination, and self-censoring is a barrier to that quest. In my pursuit of making work that felt truthful and connected, black had to have a role to play – it just felt so necessary.
One of my teachers, Caroline James, often spoke about the importance of following obsessions in our work. She had learned to trust this place of necessity as a guide towards authentic expression and it had been the focus of her Masters Thesis work. Her teachings and paintings left a lasting impression on me and made my third year critique class profoundly important to me as an art student.
Black, while difficult to work with at times, challenges me in the best possible way. It asks me to be truthful, brave and just a little mysterious.