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Website: Chestnuts Design

Interview with Estelle Thompson  for Saturation Point

4 Dec 2014

By Laurence Noga

LN   ‘Look at me now and here I am‘was the title of your painting in the group show:  ‘Double Vision’, curated by Katrina Blannin at the Lion and lamb Gallery in 2012. The title of the show seems to echo your sensibilities and attitudes in your work concerning collective memory, and the power of visual engagement. Can you tell me about your approach to those two elements in your practice?

ET    Colour has its own sense of right, the most with the least, maximum intensity combined with optical light, and a reductive absolute. I want to maximize visually from a process of working and re-working.  Sanding, abrading, setting up physical combinations; oil, wax, and silver pigment all help construct episodes in the painting’s history, and a feeling of luminous spatialisation.  

I want the colour to be optically pure, an interplay between geometric certainties, and allowing the eye to be pushed in many different directions. Writings on aesthetics by Mondrian, Malevich, Heron and Riley have all informed my thinking over a long period.

LN    The use of the domestic roller continued into your Fuse paintings, laying down the paint on a gesso surface (your own gesso). They contain an amorphous fluctuating sequence of colour, transient vertical stripes that echo sound and have high-voltage chromatic transitions. Can you say something about that kind of articulation?

ET    I wanted that feeling of amorphous light and colour, cutting horizontally across the picture frame, a linear gravity. The works were painted on aluminium with successive layers of pigment, to be observed in two states, close up, and more concrete as the viewer steps back. I want the sense of movement to be regenerated through the colour as form, producing an initial visual hit of the orange and yellow, and subliminally the grey, as it starts to emerge.

LN   That made them electric, gathering up depth and intensity, but you also used signs to title the pictures, which seems to indicate documentation. How did a change develop in the work to shift that approach towards something with stronger associations?

ET    I still wanted to develop an echo of depth in the painting, but also establish a new vocabulary, more to do with line and form; to develop a grammar of association. Considering, for example, the centre of a painting as a vanishing point, and conveying the total structuring forces present in the work.

LN    A cross-fertilisation! The conceptual, plastic, methodological. Introducing a rotating sense of tension, creating the possibility of the surface to flip, fold, or turn visually?

ET    But also unfolding complex spatial configurations, with a notion of pushing the eye into the distance, beyond the reflexive reduction of the surface.

LN   Significance of the colour and composition, the proportions of the painting that hold the viewer in a spatial matrix, transfixed, locked in the light source… how do you think about starting that process? Are there plans, sketches or preconceptions for works such as Painting for D.A,VA?  

ET   I work on panels, which provide a surface to break into, to orchestrate in a heuristic sense but also allowing a return to deeper memories. The composition allows the eye to travel across proportions, which are divided, subdivided, similar divisions over and over. Compositional options, multiple options, a set of spatial articulations that bisect the picture surface horizontally and vertically, they all have to have that optical fizz, a periphery of potency. Always operating within an emotional context.

LN   Depth of quiddity, their own ‘thisness’, and the way that activates the space?

ET   Their visual architecture, but also visceral devices, structural process. Chiaroscuro, physical light to dark, never letting the eye rest. Undulation in the surface facture, optically modulated, infinity, how it hurts your eye!

LN   I also remember experiencing this in your very early work such as Close up Closer, painted in 1993,which focused on architectural considerations, site-specific complex large-scale works that used very crisp taped line, with embedded rectilinear grids, that seemed to court imperfection.

ET   Yes, the early works began with a specificity of colour , a  ‘proposition’ removing repainting, rollering on, lifting the paint, allowing the flaws to set up rhythm, shifting the viewpoint  sideways.  

LN   So, a sense of intimate geometry and immensity in the scale, perhaps hidden psychological structures, how does that process develop the phenomenological content, and how is that content derived from other sources?

ET    I want the work to have its own internal significance, optically seductive, yet without theatricality, no mark, no gesture. Bellini’s landscape devices and early experiments have a phenomenology in their sense of pleasure equivalents, although I am never consciously abstracting from anything, even in the world of painting. I am interested in the enigmatic in painting - an encounter with the Mona Lisa ,  Vermeer’s narratives, entering and  returning to the works, a split second converted.  

LN    A fleeting encounter?

ET    Yes -  held momentarily in that encounter. Picasso’s Geurnica has that tension within its operatic orchestration, as potent as it is complex.

Look At Me Now and Here I Am 2011 Oil on Panel 50 x40 cm

A red, E white, I yellow, O black, U green 2011 Oil on Panel 50x40cm

Painting For D.A,VA 2010 -11, Oil on Panel 50 X 40cm

Fuse Painting 1997 Oil on Aluminium 213.36 x 396.24 cm

Abracadabra 2005 Oil on Panel 55 x 40cm

LN   Inside / outside, even within the colour itself?

ET   Specifically looking for that kind of equivalent.  Mondrian wanted that: ‘purity by reflection and purity by absorption’ A syncopation of colour - turquoise / white, ultramarine / black / scarlet. I want this - and a feeling of the cerebral and the physical.

LN   Yes I get that. Looking at the relationship between the paintings you have placed for me on the studio wall, even with the ones that are turned round and sit on the floor, they have their own duality: intuitive /anti-intuitive, rational / irrational.

ET   Back and forth, demanding an orbit of attention.

LN   Thanks Estelle

LN   An open geometry, mathematical, but highly intuitive. How do you feel this has re-calibrated the tension in the painting?

ET   The flatness is emphasized and returned to, in structuring, reducing and repainting each picture. I use glazing colour to build the surface facture, sometimes the colour itself can evolve from layered collages made in the studio, or by picking up a new plastic bag (its fleshy pink) and finding its equivalent in paint. The sense of past, present and future, and that level of physicality, is counterbalanced with a condition of stillness. I want to feel that the work can be seen from both the inside and the outside, oscillating at different speeds, driving a feeling of emotional and intellectual activity.

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