Saturday, March 17, 2012

Terre Verte

Madonna and Child  Segna di bonaventura

I feel inspired to write a piece on Terre Verte, which means Green Earth, and it is one of the pigments from the earth colour family of Iron oxides, along with yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt umber among  many others . I have a special relationship with this thin translucent olive- blue- green paint colour , and I use it a lot in my work to paint faces, arms, legs and I see it as a very natural way to represent flesh.  Maybe it would be good at this point, to bring you in to my world and explain myself. To me, it feels totally natural and traditional  to use this colour when painting flesh and I consider it as the base of all flesh tones.  It was used predominately from the medieval times onwards for painting people; its role was as underpainting  to the more warmer flesh tones, that would have been painted over the top of the terre verte. What had a profound impact on me visually when I was a student, was noting that some of these ancient paintings had all the top flesh tones worn off, leaving completely green faces. This fascinated me, and somehow symbolized a face a lot more coherently than all those polished alabaster like masks.   To me those ancient green portraits  are like living modern images, as real or as inspirational to me, as is a Matisse or a Bonnard painting. 
I know I have taken the role terre verte has in the history of painting flesh and run away with it.  I want to celebrate it, push its barriers and possibilities, in an unapologetic and painterly way. I have used terre verte for many years now, so much so that it is now very much part of my personal painting language.  I suppose this is what is so important to me as a modernist painter; to continually rehash and relive centuries of painting history, so that there is no time divide.  I feel I am exploring a rich world of painting language that’s all around me and now more than ever, so easily accessible. I like to  extract the bits that mean something to me personally and feel ‘right’.  I feel it’s the only way to paint, its like a continuum in the history of the visual arts, that just goes around and around in rich endless different versions of itself. Its what I call living art. 

Secret Garden  122x152cm oil on canvas

Girl with flowers in her hair  61x54cm oil on board

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