Working with Transparency

I have been making some new cell drawings recently, but I have been unsure about how to take the drawings further. The subjects are living cells in culture viewed down a light microscope. They have no colour, and are discernible only by the shadows created when the light meets a dense structure. A little colour comes from the light itself, the cell culture media and probably some dirt in the objective, but really a line drawing is all that comes from the cells. Traditionally scientists stain cells and tissues so that their structures can be seen more easily, and this is how my brightly coloured early cell paintings came to be this way.

An opportunity presented itself recently to make a series of artworks to be hung in windows (more on that in due course). Upon seeing the space I knew instantly that the works had to be transparent or translucent. It would be such a shame to block the light and the view out of the windows, but surprisingly transparent works had not been proposed for this space before.

In thinking about the support and the materials that I will use to make the pieces, I came across some works I made about the figure in space when I was on my art foundation course. (This is the year taken by trainee artists after A-levels in preparation for a Bachelors degree. I took mine at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College – ‘Bucks college’ – in High Wycombe, where my dad went to art school in the sixties.)

Figure in Space-1 1999_whole In these pieces I drew the other students in the Fine Art studio as they moved around, made their own work, came and went. I used transparent and semi-transparent materials – polythene and tissue paper – layered with acrylic paint and permanent marker to trace the figures’ movements. Like my cultured cells, the figures here are not fixed or embedded; they do not have a solid form and the shapes only exist for a brief period of time as they are caught by the light, my eye, my brush or pen stroke.

Figure in Space-2 1999_wholeIn another piece of work, I traced the accidental markings on some stools in the art studio using acrylic paint, permanent pen and spray paint on polythene.

Stool tops 1999

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