The online editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK
Interview with Judith Duquemin by Charley Peters
CP I’d like to return to what you said about the digital revolution, and in particular
digital imaging software such as Photoshop being an influence on your painting. I
find the relationship between the analogue art of painting and the digital world
we live in very interesting. The word analogue comes from the Greek roots ‘ana’,
meaning equivalent, and ‘logos’, meaning the structure of reality. Therefore, something
that is by nature analogue refers directly to the way things are in reality, or is
equivalent with such reality. In her essay Being Analog, Carol Wilder wrote: “As
a level of description, it [analog] is closer than digital coding to the physical
world, closer to corporeality, more kinaesthetic, tactile, more -
CP What are your main influences and how are they translated into your current practice?
JD I tend to think that general influences play a greater role than specific influences. For example, childhood influences, such as geography, environment, nature, custom, and perhaps parental guidance. So I would be inclined to mention those first. Specific influences come with education and maturity, and an ability to recall and integrate early experiences.
Tertiary art education was very influential, and came much later, when I was a mature
student following extensive training in traditional painting. At Sydney College of
the Arts (SCA), a faculty of the University of Sydney, I completed a Bachelor of
Visual Arts (Hons) followed by a Master of Visual Art (Research). Sydney College
of the Arts promotes itself as a conceptual school. The syllabus in the Painting
department mostly acknowledged American-
But it was the work of the Australian painter, Robert Hunter,which gave me the courage
to adopt hard-
CP How do you start a piece of work?
JD I prefer an experimental approach to painting practice, which in the conventional
sense means exposing audiences to new ideas, techniques and art forms. This can be
traced to the history of the avant-
I don’t start with the intention that I am going to create a piece of work, the aim
is more to work a new process and how it can be applied to the development of an
idea or concept linked to my practice. The canvas becomes a platform for the exploration
of ideas through painting in the research stage, as well as a symbolic mode for presenting
ideas in an abstract and creative way. The process is open-
In the practical sense, I generally start each process with geometry, any kind of geometry but add that sometimes this is preceded by visual and literature research.
Judith Duquemin Work in progress. Icosahedral Composition
from Four Pentagons and Three Rhombi. Acrylic on canvas.
40 x 50 cms. No. 7. © Judith Duquemin 2014
Judith Duquemin. Reconstructed Painting: Digital Gradient #4. 2007. A3 digital print. © Judith Duquemin 2007. Digital reconstruction. Colin Clifford.
CP How would you describe your relationship with the materials and processes of painting?
JD The process is the artefact in my work, even though works can stand alone as
material entities, or commodities. I create tessellated colour fields from irregular
grids, geometry and visual algorithm around a particular topic, using techniques
of drawing and hard-
Judith Duquemin. Icosahedral Composition from Four Pentagons and Three Rhombi. No. 1. 40 x 50 cms. Acrylic on canvas. © Judith Duquemin 2014
Judith Duquemin. Painting for Reconstruction: Red. Acrylic on canvas. 57 x 81cms. 2011. ParisCONCRET. 2011. © Judith Duquemin 2011
Judith Duquemin. Reconstructed Painting: Red. Digital print. Size variable. 2012
Judith Duquemin. Integrity No. 10. Acrylic on canvas. 50 x 150 cms. Harrison Galleries, Sydney. 2006 © Judith Duquemin 2006
Judith Duquemin: New Work. SCA Galleries. Sydney College of the Arts. Sydney. 2007. Curated by: Kate Major.
Some of my paintings have been reconstructed as digital images in a range of digital
formats, as a matter of curiosity about the aesthetics of digital media. Many have
been exhibited as small or large-
But there is one very significant point concerning the relationship between materials and methods in my work and that is: the process of conceptualization that occurs within the act of painting; and more importantly how that in turn feeds creativity. This is truly an overlooked attribute of painting and helps explain my interest in experimental processes. Silent knowledge (preconscious knowledge), is ‘knowledge we know but cannot tell’ said the Hungarian philosopher Michael Polyani (Michael Polyani. The Tacit Dimension, 1966). Artist knowledge is silent knowledge and is articulated through bodily action, process and thought. Today this is more commonly known as procedural memory.
The reductive techniques that I adopt help to articulate an artist knowledge. These
include the decisive and analytical effects of creating hard edges; the structural
properties of geometric form; the symbolism and communicability of colour fields;
the propositional advantages of self-
Judith Duquemin. Reconstructed Painting: DNA x 4 section. Digital images. Size variable. 2008. © Judith Duquemin 2008. Digital reconstruction. Nathaniel Warren
CP Could you tell us how you use systems in generating your work (if indeed you do?) From what you’ve said earlier; that process rather than outcome is object in your work, you seem to be aligning yourself with a conceptual approach; I’m reminded of what Sol LeWitt wrote in Paragraphs on Conceptual Art (1967): “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art”. Rules and systems are in many ways opposed to the common notion of art as a field of personal expression. How do you negotiate your relationship with creativity within the rules you might impose on yourself when making work?
JD The short answer is -
My case in point is the role of volition in the formation of concepts that evolve within processes of painting to become complex ideas. We have neglected to recognize that artistic expression is mostly made up of many, many attempts to act in the mind of the artist, and that those attempts are just as important as actions in the development and critique of a work. This was the subject of my doctoral thesis, in which I argued that volition was an action of painting in addition to physical action.
In his philosophy of action, Ludwig Wittgenstein said that every action is an event of trying to act. Every action precedes a contraction of muscles and a movement of the body. “One doesn’t imagine movements and watch them happen. Actions viewed in this way are actions that are willed and lead to the habit of identifying causes…actions can be determined kinaesthetically without our observation of them happening…one can think, imagine, (and) calculate in the head without feelings associated with mental activity”. Wittgenstein’s stand influenced new volitional theories, with the ‘philosophy of action’ seeking to avoid the reductive tendency of directly linking actions to certain events. (Wittgenstein, L., Philosophical Investigations, (Trans.) Anscombe, G.E. M., & R. Rhees, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1958, p.185)
So coming back to your question, I don’t start with a concept; I arrive at one in
an experimental way. Concepts can be simple and complex (John Locke b.1632). Experimental
art is concerned with process because it defines an approach, not an art form. It
is characterised by being highly conceptual, and it can result in new methods and
forms; it is anti-
Judith Duquemin. Rhombi #1.Acrylic on board. 15.5 x 20.5 cms. red 03 Art Gallery. Barcelona. 2014, © Judith Duquemin 2014
CP Your work is concerned with a geometric dynamic. To what extent would you situate your work within the traditions of abstraction?
JD I don’t see a need to situate or idealize my practice within past or even present
forms of geometric abstraction, including the contemporary revival of concrete and
I employ abstract geometric techniques that can be traced to a legacy of modernist
geometric abstraction, hard-
Where does one belong in the trajectory of geometric abstraction? Possibly it is
an incomplete history. One can revisit the great works and retrospectives of Wassily
Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, and later, artists
such as Ellsworth Kelly, Bridget Riley, Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland
Judith Duquemin. Colour Studies. Acrylic on Catalan textile.10 x 27 cms. x 2. 2013. © Judith Duquemin 2013
Judith Duquemin. Coral Coast # 2. Acrylic on Catalan textile. 40 x 45 cms. 2013. © Judith Duquemin 2013.
CP Could you describe your relationship with colour?
JD Living in the UK has caused me to completely rethink my understanding of colour
through my experience of northern-
At present I am concerned with additive colour systems to support the creation of a colourful digital animation, but although I hesitate to say it, during the early experimental stages of painting, colour carries little sentiment. It is chosen more as an organiser or a research tool to differentiate between shapes.
Judith Duquemin. Icosahedral Composition. Four Pentagons and Three Rhombi. # 2. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 50 cms. © Judith Duquemin 2014
CP What are you working on currently?
JD I am currently researching a set of geometric compositions for the creation of a digital animation. As paintings, they explore asymmetry in pictorial composition in unconventional ways, drawing upon Renaissance art and Arab science as well as recent discoveries in the field of particle physics. The project involves quite a lot of visual research, using regular and irregular polygons. My research for this project included excursions to Florence in Italy, and Granada in Spain.
Judith Duquemin: www.judithduquemin.com
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
More specific influences included exposure to geometric and op art in commercial
galleries in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, when I attended art school in the early
1970s. The paintings were large and very inspiring. Aged seventeen, I had just matriculated
from high school where I had passionately studied art as a subject for five years.
Brisbane was a young, modern, expanding city full of Modernist-
Another significant influence is information technology; my professional artistic career in the early 90s grew in tandem with the digital revolution; for example, the first Macs and digital imaging software such as Photoshop. It seemed logical to interweave the visual imaging tools of digital software with the known, formal properties of abstract geometric painting. My passion for geometry progressed via a combination of these things. Below is an acrylic on canvas painting exhibited at ParisCONCRET, Paris, France in 2011. It was later digitally reconstructed and exhibited at Sincresis, Empoli, in Italy, in 2014. There are subtle differences.
As an Australian and British citizen, I currently live and work in the UK. Born in
Brisbane, I grew up on the idyllic Coral Coast, in the sugar cane farming region
My appreciation for colour and abstraction also came via my exposure to modernist textile designs in the 1950s and 60s. At Christmas time my Channel Island grandparents posted beautiful French and English textiles such as scarves and garments as well as other goods that contained colourful geometric patterns. Modern design came to rural Australia via international post. The textiles were quite amazing compared to the local cotton textiles made up of plain pastel shades designed for staying cool. This helps to explain my early use of pattern, albeit broken pattern.