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Red + Green = Yellow Interview

Published: 2 March 2021 Author: Jenny Mc Namara & Exhibiting Artists

In 2020, artists Abi Freckleton, Catriona Beckett, David & Melissa Eveleigh-Evans, James Ellis and Theresa Poulton were selected to make a new work as a visual response to a work by one of the other chosen artists. They were provided with a photograph of an artwork, and no further information. Using their immediate visual reaction as inspiration they created a new artwork in response. The exhibition presented the original artworks, along with the newly commissioned works.

In this interview Jenny Mc Namara, who conceived the show, asks each of the artists about the process, and their feelings about the visual responses made to their work.

Jenny Mc Namara: Is the work, you were given a photo of, as you imagined it to be? What did you get right or wrong about it, comparing your first impression of it, to seeing it in real life/exhibition, installation, photos?

James Ellis: To start with, I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a sculpture or a painting – somehow the shadows didn’t seem completely right for a photograph! It’s funny what you see when you start to question everything. Once I understood what I was looking at, the sculpture was mostly as I imagined it to be, except for the size – it is much taller and more substantial than I expected it to be!

Artwork: Heroic Sublime by Eveleigh-Evans
bone ash, marble dust, pumice, casein, bone black, blood, bohemian green, slate grey, cadmium yellow, vermilion, smalt, Verdigris, English red, French ochre, burnt umber, graphite, malachite, viridian, Egyptian blue, cadmium orange, sulphur, carmine, madder lake, iron oxide, lapis lazuli, pearl, gold, bronze, emulsion, glue, and concrete, 2.15x86x86m, 2018

Artwork: Balances in Tandem: Harmonic Opposites by Catriona Beckett
Sculptural Video Installation (6,34 projected video animations, sound, metal, voil fabric, PVC strips, metal chain,) Shown at DJCAD Degree Show, Dundee. Supported by Dundee University Discretionary Fund. 2018

Theresa Poulton: No, not exactly, obviously the scale of the installation in the exhibition was different to the image in the photo. I thought the logistics of transporting and installing large screens might have been problematic so I expected something different. I had already thought that the original work wouldn’t have been replicated and wondered whether the artists were going to send a large scale photograph of their installation. I was pleasantly surprised to see the screens and the moving images (obviously, in the photo it was a still from the film). In comparison to the image and real life exhibition I think there was a vast difference, I suppose I couldn’t have imagined how the work would be presented for the exhibition, I could only base my work on the initial photograph.

Eveleigh-Evans: We weren’t sure how big Theresa’s painting was going to be in real life, and we discussed that a lot! It’s a very architectural, dynamic and powerful piece of work, so the scale was a bit of a surprise. We did think it would be bigger 🙂 but it has all the impact we imagined from the picture you provided.

Artwork: Quadriptych by Theresa Poulton
Acrylic on Canvas, 2015

Catriona Beckett: The work I saw in the photograph appeared different to how it was presented within the exhibition space. From the photograph I received, I imagined the sculpture to be much smaller. The paper pasted on the wall looked as though it was pasted onto a table instead of onto the floor as it was in the exhibition space. From the image, it was hard to decipher what type of paper was used; it looked as though it was handmade paper but it was difficult to tell for definite. The paper looked lighter in colour in the photograph than it was in real life.

Artwork: The brightness of the sun squeezed into a slow motion downpour by Abi Freckleton
Wallpaper made from Inkjet Prints, Glazed and Lustred Ceramic, 2.5mx70cmx40cm

Abi Freckleton: In ways it was exactly as expected – as a flat abstract work made of clear cut linear lines it was a work pretty easy to represent photographically. However, I do think the work exhibited was a print onto metal vs the original paper collage I was sent a picture of. The reason I say this was because I spent some time looking at the shadows between the shapes in the images and thinking about the paper casting these shadows, and these were not visible in the work exhibited. I find it interesting that the collage was reproduced in this way, to be honest I would have liked to see the collage itself displayed and wonder if they would have more charge and more of the artist’s hand/process/thought for the viewer to grab onto (but I am probably biased on that given my obsession with presenting the process!)

Artwork: Duck, Duck, Goose by James Ellis
Paper on Wood Panel, 2020

Jenny Mc Namara: How did you go about designing your new work?

Theresa Poulton: I was influenced in the choice of media because I was working from home, the materials I had to hand were limited so I chose paper for the first work and board for the accompanying painting. The scale of work I could make within my home/work environment and the size of the exhibition space and the number of artists exhibiting pushed me towards a smaller scale work. Although separate paintings, one framed and the other free from restraints, it was important to create a dialogue between both works.

Abi Freckleton: It wasn’t really a process of design, I don’t really work like that (coming up with an ‘idea’ and then executing it). The work was a process of exploration, like all my works the exhibited elements were the remnants of that process. I spent a lot of time deconstructing, manipulating and dismantling the image I was given – reproducing the colours, mixing them up, looking at the individual shapes, etc. I used the image almost as a material, experimenting with it to try to find an interesting interpretation via material thinking. However, in the end most of these experimental works did not ‘make it’ into the final work. The final work represents a kind of story – an abridged story anyway – of the process. It links together one particular part of this exploration (getting the colours matched in a diy store) to ideas/motifs in my own practice (water, gesture, light, reflections, waves) as well as a dream that was triggered by it (or at least that is what the work postulates!).

Eveleigh-Evans: We discussed which elements of the image really spoke to us. We spent a lot of time talking through the forms and colours and how they created space and emotion. We drew the work, printed it and made a room (A4), imagined being inside the painting, then made drawings based on the forms we saw. That progressed to coloured forms based on the painting, and models of various configurations of forms alongside materials tests until we settled on the final response. As the painting felt architectural to us, we discussed what the earliest architectural forms were, and used that to work through a space language that could respond to Theresa’s work.

James Ellis: I first looked for the elements in Heroic Sublime that stood out the most to me, in order to integrate them into my response. These were the order and geometry of the composition.
I also tried to interpret the meaning of the sculpture. It felt to me like the spheres attached to the central element, all at an equal distance from each other, were a representation of our current situation at the time. They seemed to be a metaphor for the social distancing laws that had been introduced by the government to keep us all apart.
I wanted to express the need for us all to work together in my artwork response. I kept the same placement of spheres as in the photo of the sculpture, but extended the spheres into larger shapes that would hide the central structure whilst also linking all the spheres together. I wanted to show the importance of us collectively taking charge of the situation to create a better normal, rather than letting other people rigidly decide our future for us. By linking the spheres together, there was no longer a need for the central supporting structure – we could be strong and free in our own network of support. I also used the same bright colours as the spheres in the original work, growing the shapes in such a way that the vertical balance would still be maintained in the composition.

Catriona Beckett: In the first week, I spent a lot of time thinking about my given image. At the same time, I considered my own work that I had recently been making in the studio. It made sense to think about how the paintings I had been making could answer, in some way, to the image I had received. Thinking about the presentation of the paintings, I edited some paintings together, repeated them and collated them into a new digital painting. I was fascinated by the golden ceramics of Abi’s piece, so I followed a process of digitisation to create 3D objects inspired by them.

Jenny Mc Namara: Which features of the work in the photo inspired or guided you?

Abi Freckleton: The green shape in the centre became a focus or reference point – kind of retrospectively and just for a short period when I was making the ‘wave gesture’ out of porcelain, but really it was the entire process (as explained above) of visual investigation over a period of time that guided everything.

Theresa Poulton: The shape the screens formed at angle in the image and their form and colour were the catalyst for me, I knew straight away I wanted to create another space, a replication of their space because the symmetry and the geometry was balanced. I had to ignore some of the external stagey settings in the image of their work because I wasn’t sure it was part of the work. I referenced some of the colours within their work. The work on the screens was geometric; I responded to this in my style. I wanted to create movement and perspective within my work because I knew their work was a moving image.

Eveleigh-Evans: Actually the questions you gave at the beginning really helped us to engage with the picture and draw out how we were going to respond.

James Ellis: The geometry, spheres and colours were the key elements that guided my response.

Catriona Beckett: The components I was most drawn to within the artwork were the two components which made it up – the grey paper and the golden ceramics. Naturally, the piece I made had two strong corresponding components. The grey paper pasted onto the wall which covered onto the floor, for me, was reminiscent of a banner. I used this idea to invent my own banner which incorporated repeated and layered gouache paintings. Regarding aesthetic choices, both banners differed but each were nameless and without direction to a location. I was interested in the scale of the ceramic pieces, so I reworked them digitally. This led me to create macro digital objects each with differing movements.

Jenny Mc Namara: What did you think of this process as a whole - did you enjoy it? Is it something you would do again?

Catriona Beckett: I enjoyed this process because it was rooted in intuition rather than theory. Having no aforementioned context meant working from purely aesthetic cues, and this is different from how I usually make.

Eveleigh-Evans: Incredibly rewarding. Felt really radical and freeing. Would jump at the chance to do it again!

Abi Freckleton: I very much enjoyed it. I would definitely do it again, I think it has massive potential as a curatorial device (I would not be surprised if other galleries steal your idea Jenny!). If the works/artists are selected well then there is still potential for themes and common threads to be woven through an exhibition, but the direct interaction between ideas/forms and the unexpected nature of what the response works will be I think brings a unique energy to the show (not just for the artists taking part, but for those coming to see it too).

James Ellis: I thoroughly enjoyed it! As soon as I read the brief, I knew I wanted to be a part of this experience – it was just so intriguing and relevant to my practice. Receiving the photo of the artwork that I would respond to was like receiving a Christmas present! It was exciting to discover the work that would inspire and challenge me to create something new. On top of that, the kind, enthusiastic and open-minded people at The NewBridge Project were very refreshing to work with. I’d definitely do it again!

Theresa Poulton: Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, I particularly enjoyed the fact that we had no idea who the other artists were. Actually, that’s not the whole truth, the pandemic did have a negative affect, my choice of materials was compromised. I really wasn’t prepared for an online, open discussion either, fight or flight comes to mind here. Nevertheless, it was the first time that I’ve stood outside of a North East Gallery, peered through the window and thought…wowza, what an all-round achievement (and not because I was one of the exhibiting artists either). The install worked, all of the works seemed to respond well to each other, it was a riot of colour, a feast for the eyes. I think collectively the project was a success, having an audience would have sealed the deal, after all their opinion really does count.

Jenny Mc Namara: Did going through this process allow you to learn anything new?

Eveleigh Evans: We learnt a lot about opening up to new forms and materials, and the tight turn around actually helped to focus and make fast decisions which was good for process.

Catriona Beckett: I grasped how there are always affinities between different artworks even when looking at artworks on a purely aesthetic level. I enjoyed how I could discover these seemingly disparate affinities and how they could allow me to create something new.

Theresa Poulton: I have already worked in this manner, it wasn’t totally new to me. Being given a concept and an image as a focal point can be challenging, especially when you know the artist. For me there is a concern that they might be offended or disapproving of my response to their work. In this instance the artists were unknown to me, there was no personal connection, therefore I had no worries about how they would respond to my interpretation of their work.

Abi Freckleton: It has helped me to identify methods and approaches in my practice that are really key – writing being one of those. I used writing before but only in a documentary or summative way, in this work the writing became part of the thinking process in the same way the material experimentation is. Also having to create work based on something purely visual – with no conceptual ‘reason’ for it being the start point showed me how much can come from working in this way, and how free-ing it is to work like that in the studio. Whilst material experimentation is the mainstay of how I work, I do always think alot about ideas and theories and meaning too – it was refreshing and confidence boosting to work without this milleu of ideas constantly circling. I will be trying to do this more going forward.

James Ellis: Yes, developing the custom-made wood panel to support the collage was quite a challenge. I became a bit of a self-taught carpenter in the process! Also packaging such a big artwork was an interesting new experience – I would never have imagined how much tape it would require!

Jenny Mc Namara: Will having gone through this process inform any future artworks or your way of working?

James Ellis: I think this was a really beneficial experience that taught me how to adapt my process to create work in response to a specific visual stimulus. Normally my creative process is completely free and doesn’t require any specific outcomes, so developing this understanding has added versatility to my practice that will definitely inform future commissions/collaborations.

Theresa Poulton: Has it informed my practice? As I already stated, I have worked like this already however given the opportunity to work in this way again I’d be happy to participate.

Abi Freckleton: Yes, as I said above it has helped me consolidate and refine how I use writing in my work and freed me a little from over-thinking and worrying about ‘meaning’ too soon in the studio.

Catriona Beckett: In alignment to the ethos of Red + Green = Yellow, I want to respond more automatically to my surroundings and artworks. I am specifically wanting to do this with sculpture, as Abi’s sculpture led to uncharted and exciting ways of making.
I am in the practice of drawing automatically in response to paintings and drawings. But I want to experiment with automatic drawing in response to sculpture because I believe it will add a new layer of richness to my making.

Eveleigh-Evans: Definitely, it’s given us a new form language and pushed us into trying new materials.

Jenny Mc Namara:

Theresa Poulton: In comparison Eveleigh-Evans’ work is totemic, bold and massive, sculptural and inhabiting a real space and mine portrays an illusory environment. My quadriptych work installed in a corner referring to the architecture, does exist in 3D.

I think given their sculptural practice it was an interesting response.

Artwork: Summoning by Eveleigh-Evans
crushed malachite, iron pyrite, lapis lazuli, holographic and gold chrome car wrap, concrete, plastic and wood, 2.2x1x1m, 2020

Eveleigh Evans: Loved what James made! Really humbling to see his nurturing of the bobbles inside his piece. Still very much his work, but felt a shared kinship, a recognition in it.

Artwork: Better Normal by James Ellis
Paper on Wood Panel, 2020

Abi Freckleton: I expected to be able to tell straight away whose work was responding to mine, but I couldn’t! It was more a process of elimination that I worked out it was Catriona’s work. I especially liked the digital animation. I liked that she seemed to pull out feelings of shifting fluidity and golden light. Honestly though, I feel like I haven’t really engaged properly with this work – I hope that maybe it will be possible for me to spend some time looking at it and watching the animation in full in the space, it feels to me (a bit like my work) that it is the kind of work where the physical relation between the elements, being in the space with it and walking around it and appreciating its scale etc is important.

Artwork: a banner for a new place by Catriona Beckett
Sculptural Video Installation wood, vinyl banner, washing line, animations on ipads, 5,00 minutes, 2020

James Ellis: I was really surprised to discover Abi Freckleton’s response to my work, mostly as my own approach to creating a response was so different. I had really focused on maintaining aspects of the work I was responding to, whereas all the elements that characterise my practice had disappeared in Abi’s interpretation of my work. Even the bright, vivid colours had been transformed into a ‘pale dirty green’. I liked the idea of using all the colours of the artwork to create one single colour, like condensing the whole story down into its essence, but the result was definitely unexpected!

I find it fascinating to see other artists developing work that is process-focused and inspired by personal physical experience and emotion. This is something that I can really relate to, as my work is essentially a visual response to my own physical need for space and balance. I’m really grateful to have had my work transformed, stretched and interpreted in such an unfamiliar way.

Artwork: I dreamt of a tsunami, Self-glazing porcelain;
All of it reflected inside, Inkjet ink in water;
The pixels confuse, Paper made from digital print-out;
Not a very good match, Wood and household emulsion
by Abi Freckleton, 2020

Catriona Beckett: Before seeing the artwork Theresa created for Red+Yellow=Green, what I initially found interesting in her paintings was the way she created depth. I enjoy her flat application of paint with which she creates depth through a made-up collection of shapes and tones, with each painting having a refined composition. The artwork Theresa made for the exhibition appears to be inspired by the composition of my installation. She has used it as a reference to structure the painting. This is interesting because, for this installation, I was interested in juxtaposing two different types of depth: the depth of the video content and the depth of the physical sculpture surrounding the videos. What I find interesting in Theresa’s painting is the way she has transformed these two different depths into two new different types of depth with paint. In her painting, two painted rectangles are floating in the centre and they offer the viewer two different perspectives. The outside of the rectangles is equally as pleasing because certain parts of it suggest it is a foreground and other parts suggest it is a background.

Artwork: Spatial Response, (Framed) Acrylic on Paper, approximately 30x40cm
Optical Illusion, Acrylic on Gesso Panel, 45x57cm
By Theresa Poulton, 2020

Red + Green = Yellow was an experimental exhibition which explored visual communication through imagination, abstraction and making. The show was curated by Jenny Mc Namara and Niomi Fairweather, with assistance from Lydia Bailey, Matt Pickering and Jessica Bennett.

Read more and see full documentation of the exhibition here. →

All exhibition images kindly provided by Matt Pickering.