The dilemma of using the colour green in painting.

There are no colours that I “never use” in my paintings, although I have a preference for blues, reds, oranges, blacks, whites, greys, browns etc. rather than purples, pinks and greens. There are several reasons for this: 1) I often find those three colours difficult to harmonise and integrate with other colours in abstract paintings because they are so dominant, and 2) because they tend to “dictate” both subject matter (e.g. green = nature paintings, purple = spiritual paintings, and pink = well, it’s just always so damned “pink”!) and the acceptable complementary and contrasting colours they butt up against. Both greens and purples can be very exciting accent colours as they lend a feeling of emotion and personal engagement on the part of the painter and viewer. I have been working with the challenges of greens and purples for quite a number of years — sometimes seeking to convey natural or spiritual themes through abstraction, and at other times deliberately provoking harmonic disharmony. The following example is a colour field geometric painting that primarily consists of greens and lavender. Of course, the green foundation and purposefully dominant background is in actuality composed of several greens, blues and yellows in order to give a sense of vibrancy. The combination of green plus lavender begs for yet another equally light but neutral complementary colour: the lightest beige possible. The dominance of green as the primary colour on the canvas exercises quite a bit of control over the geometrical elements in the painting as well — both placement, size and form. Here I try to resist the all-too-common urge of making yet another Rothko-style copy or a monochromatic painting, while at the same time allowing for “organic” brushstrokes and vibrating abutments rather than a cold hard-edge graphic art print flattened look. The dominant colour green deserves a shout out to the adage that “nothing in nature is straight”, even in an abstract minimalist painting.

Twilight, oil on canvas, 40x40 cm.
Twilight, oil on canvas, 40×40 cm.

In abstract paintings contrasting colours and elements are sometimes complementary, by the very nature of abstraction itself. The representational and social archetypes, symbols, emotions and gender often associated with certain colours can sometimes feel restrictive. With increasing levels of abstraction provocative rebellion is both easier and more exhilarating. Used in highly-abstract or impressionistic works the colours pink and lavender can engender far greater associations in number than “cute”, femininity etc. For example, pink + beige/browns can convey “new masculinity”, openness and “soft” natural harmony in arid landscapes.

A few examples of some of my “green paintings” follow. As you can see, the tendency to move towards nature as a theme is apparent — in spite of employing fantasy as a style within varying degrees of abstraction:

Soul evacuation, oil on canvas, 100x150x8 cm.
Soul evacuation, oil on canvas, 100x150x8 cm.
Eclipse, oil on canvas, 40x40 cm.
Eclipse, oil on canvas, 40×40 cm.
Not seeing the forest for the trees, oil on canvas/mixed media, 60x50 cm.
Not seeing the forest for the trees, oil on canvas/mixed media, 60×50 cm.

«Le jour du couronnement / L’obsession des Jacobites» (The Coronation Day / Jacobite Obsession»), 2016-2020:
This 90 x 65 cm. abstract-geometric landscape oil painting on canvas features textiles reminiscent of royalty and festivities: a plush luscious green velvet hill and a shimmering blue heavy silk fabric sky, separated by a gold and silver brocade sash which represents the horizon at dusk. Swaying in the precocious Scottish wind in the Sky of Dreams is a somewhat unstable and slightly-tarnished large golden fleur de lis, and in the bottom section is a cocksure prancing silver unicorn — the fleur de lis (the royal tressure) and the unicorn (the Scottish national animal) both being closely related to Scottish history and tradition. Together, all of these elements comprise the Jacobite obsession/dream of one day crowning a new Jacobite King or Queen of Scotland. Finally, the traditional St. Andrew’s saltire or crux decussata gives way to the glittering sword / scepter of glorious resurrection — of both St. Andrew and the Jacobite dream … never again to be subordinate, tortured, enslaved, murdered or otherwise “crucified”.

Alba gu bràth!

Details from the painting:

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Tears flowing while walking through the forest, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm.
Tears flowing while walking through the forest, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm.

 

Here is an example of a spiritual/religious painting, where various shades of green, blue, purple and gold serve to accentuate utmost religious/spiritual reverence:

Hope, oil on canvas/mixed media, 50x50 cm.
Hope, oil on canvas/mixed media, 50×50 cm.

Greens and blues can often work quite easily together. Here is an example of a painting composed almost solely of greens, blues and turquoise. In this case I used that combination to illustrate communication with a deceased partner (on the other side of the veil). Those colours together are perhaps more instinctively related to water, but here I suggest that the astral sea is also a sea that can be traversed:

Tor (on the other side of the veil), oil on canvas, 50x50 cm.
Tor (on the other side of the veil), oil on canvas, 50×50 cm.

And although I usually avoid pink like the plague, I have intentionally made some paintings (and delivered commissioned works where the customer requested my) using elements of pink. Here is a painting where I used both pink and lavender, a provocation in that such colours usually communicate a lightheartedness which is not often associated with wrist-cutting, although the usage of lavender can suggest that the ecstasy of cutting one’s wrists can — for some — become a spiritual experience which gives a momentary glow/high. Note the scratching into the canvas to mimic the musical slashing movements:

A Wrist-cutter's Glow, oil on canvas, 50x50 cm.
A Wrist-cutter’s Glow, oil on canvas, 50×50 cm.

And here I use pink as an accent colour together with other “happy colours” to communicate a feeling of “fun in the sun” and playfulness:

Playa del Postiguet (Alicante), oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm.
Playa del Postiguet (Alicante), oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm.
“Wanted: for breaking the rules of Art and Writing!”, self-portrait, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas, 2018
“J’en ai rien à branler/I don’t give a fuck! no. 9, Pissing on our parade”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. “Pissing on our parade”, is a commentary on gay violence — i.e. violence, murder and terror committed both by and against gays. LGBTQ-persons are “people”, and prone to the same problems and personality issues as all others in society. However, whenever an LGBTQ-person commits an act of terror (Orlando), sexual violence and harassment (by the way, these harassments are seldom investigated as #metoo, or even hate crimes), murder plus cannibalism, or other acts that feel like a violation of what many consider to be basic humane and civilised values, it feels as embarrassing to me as a gay person as muslims must feel when yet another act of hate-inspired terrorism is committed in the name of Islam. It is also embarrassing to me as a human and as a soul in active incarnation. These individuals — regardless of whether they are disturbed, or just hateful — are pissing on our parade. Keywords: pissing, parade, #stopthebleeding, wounded hearts, rainbow, #stopthehate. This painting is part of a series of miniature abstract oil paintings made in 2018 — this series is about feigning indifference in a crazy and brutal world.


«Love illusion», 65×90 cm., oil on canvas, 2018.

And again here below, I use both green and pink to identify the only elements of nature in solid form where the rest is just an abstraction of a pond with a few light currents and golden sunlight reflections:

Deconstructed pond, oil on canvas, 40x40 cm. (An exploration of the zone in between Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.)
Deconstructed lily pond, oil on canvas, 40×40 cm. (An exploration of the zone in between Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.)

I used to adhere to the art politics that one’s creations (in my case art and writing) should never be self-analysed/explained to the public. I am older now, and I am not so afraid of critics evaluating the success of my intentions against the final works. Each painting or poem is connected to the previous one(s). It is all a process — never to be perfect, or absolute. Besides, I have often wondered myself what this or that artist or author was inspired by, or set himself/herself as technical goals. And yes, I get those questions myself. I do not often give detailed answers in response, but every now and then it can be useful for both myself and my audiences to show a bit more of what has driven me than what can be surmised from the title of a work.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, July 2018.

Adam's green aura, 46x56 cm., oil on canvas. A shout out to kalosf, whose photographic self-portrait inspired this mirrored reaction.
Selg-portrait, Vibing the Green Aura of Creativity and Love, 46×56 cm., oil on canvas. A shout out to kalosf, whose photographic self-portrait inspired this mirrored reaction.

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