Finding Abstract


In October 2016 I went to Corrie on Arran for a holiday and, as always, spent many hours gazing at the sea both out on the beaches and from the fisherman’s cottage windows that look straight out on the sea and over to the mainland of Scotland.   A couple of days after returning I went to see the Abstract Expressionist Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. 

Amongst many wonderful works I was struck by a couple of Rothko’s that I hadn’t seen before – not the old friends in the Tate.  I suddenly saw his paintings in a completely different way.   This complete transformation in how I perceived them immediately brought to mind the view from Corrie.    I painted some abstract interpretations of my Arran paintings.

I went to the RA with one of my sisters and one of my cousins and our children.  I was brought up in a family of four girls and this particular family of cousins were also four girls, all educated at academic girls’ schools so you can imagine that the dearth of female artists featured in the exhibition was a topic of conversation between us! 

On my return from London I decided to start investigating female abstract painters and discovered the work of Lee Krasner.  She was married to Jackson Pollock and was already an established artist when they met.     When Jackson Pollock left her and then died (in quick succession) she inherited his studio space (previously she had to make do with a room in the house).  She started an amazing series of paintings known as the earth green series. 


I did two paintings beginning to explore her ideas using the green and pink she had– abstracts of still life including pomegranates and leaves which are below. Suddenly everywhere I looked there was pink and green.

The more I read about Lee Krasner and looked at her paintings the more I felt inspired by her and I started to reflect on my window series of paintings I had done in 2013 inspired by Winifred Nicholson.   Before I had a studio I painted in the house.    I looked through photos of my sold paintings and I was particularly drawn to a painting of a small vase of lily of the valley framed by a window.  The fresh green of a spring day with the beech leaves just beginning to emerge in the garden outside was very appealing.

During this time I heard a programme on Radio four (which is usually on in the background) about possibility of life on Mars or elsewhere in the universe.  It occurred to me that there are so very many planets all flooded with light but to date no evidence of life elsewhere.   In the winter it is widely thought we might feel down due to lack of light but maybe what we are lacking is green.   At Christmas time we do still remember the pagan tradition of bringing greenery into the house in the winter.  I find my need for more green goes on throughout the winter months of January and February and lets be honest March too.

Chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis as it allows plants to absorb the energy from light.  Without out this we would not have the variety of life that we know it on earth.  So many great debates of our times lead back to this – whether it is discussion of the need to reduce pollution in the cities of the world, how to protect the rainforests,  whether to build on the green belt or how to feed the world’s population   --  it all comes back to green plants and their vital role in providing the energy to keep everything functioning on earth.

After I had started the abstract version of the lily of the valley painting one morning I went into the studio and felt it was all wrong and that I needed to start over again  I just picked up the brush with green paint and without really understanding how I created an entirely different painting with the look of a world  or sphere emerging in the view from the window.  I liked it, put it on social media and it seemed others did too.  It reminded me of a painting I had done for a Kelloggs’ cereal competition when I was about 8 years old, painting the what the world would look like in the year 2000.   Back then, I also got cross with my painting thinking it all wrong – but the result went on to win the national competition!  I have gone on to do further paintings developing this theme and combining them with previous themes from my painting such as the Green tunnel from 2012

Looking through my back catalogue it became apparent how fundamental to all my paintings green is.  For example the looking through the window series from 2014.