Minerva Theatre Exhibition
The MA is now complete, the degree show has finished, all stewarding is finished and the work has come down. For me, I still have paintings on display in an exhibition, which has been so expertly mounted by Sophie Shaw and Harriet Rose in the foyer of the Minerva. I have two drawings and five paintings on display, showing some of the work completed during my residency, focusing on the production, The Rehearsal.
One of the paintings on display is the one which I started in the Foyer of the main theatre, and shows the place which Luna had described to me as being a special place for her. You can find this painting immediately to the left of the Minerva Box Office.
I am very proud to have my work shown in this prestigious location and I am endebted to the theatre and my MA tutor Dr Shirley Chubb, for their support and encouragement.
Come and see some Chekhov at the Minerva and see the exhibition for yourself.
I attended a four day intensive painting workshop led by John Skinner at Seawhite Studios, Partridge Green. This was a good opportunity to start some paintings from my collected resources from CFT. I chose to work with The Rehearsal as I had most information on this play.
The studio space, being shared with a number of other artists, was smaller than my own studio, so my large canvases felt quite cramped to start with, until I was able to organise the space better.
I like to have preparatory or reference material on the wall as I work.
I started two paintings, but I shall follow the path of just one of them for this post. The ground was already painted with a dark, dark blue. This is not my usual practice, but I am trying new approaches, whilst I am working out how to show the darkness of a theatre, brought to life with light and colour.
The first attempt to cover the canvas is always a challenge, but this is a good time to consider the composition of the painting.
I was working on an easel, not something I am accustomed to doing and probably not to be repeated if possible. It tips the painting up towards the light and makes it harder to see the colours when the paint is wet. With a lot of canvas to cover (1200x1000mm) progress seems slow at times. The advice was to emphasis something that we like in our source material. This was an easy decision for me. It was the odd shapes in my drawing of the flour de lys shapes on the set for The Rehearsal that had first captured my attention, so this is what I wanted to emphasise.
Painting is a process where marks are added and removed from the canvas at every stage. On reflection, I removed the red ribbon-like line where it crossed the light green ‘ribbon’ and this made a more cohesive composition, allowing two entities to exist in their own space in the painting. I spend quite a lot of time mixing paint colours, rarely using colours straight from the tube. when I do it tends to be for emphasis or highlights only. Once you have used pure colour you have nowhere to go to intensify your colour.
I continued to work on this canvas between working on another painting, back in the studio in artOne at the university, where I shall concentrate my work for the summer, giving my husband a bit more space in the studio back at Lavant.
I extended the red ‘ribbon’ down to the bottom of the canvas and removed the patch of light purple from the base of the painting. I liked the purple colour but didn’t feel it was in the right place. However, I was now faced with a composition which sits on the surface of the picture plane. This is again out of my comfort zone. I was tempted to change this to make it a painting that I would feel able to ‘walk into’. I resisted the urge to make the change and instead will take on the challenge of something more abstract than is my usual practice.
Still being in love with the purple, I added it to the right hand image, feeling that it worked well with the green, but being disappointed in the overall composition.
William Dudley had told me that he liked the way I had captured the chaos of the play and his interpretation of the set in my drawing. This wasn’t coming across in the painting. I needed to introduce some movement to this rather static painting. I tore myself some stencils and set to work to mix a brighter green. I left small interstitial glimpses of the purple.
Now it feels as if there is a conversation going on between the two images in the painting. By now the red ‘ribbon’ was a little the worse for wear and so I re-mixed the colour and re-instated parts of the line, where necessary. For the time being I shall leave the painting. Sometimes I need to live with a painting for a while before I know what to do next or simply decide to move on.
It is a great privilege to be allowed to observe rehearsals and I am grateful to Jeremy Sams, Director, Ba Penney, Stage Manager and the cast for making this possible for me. I was excited and very much challenged by the prospect of being able to draw not just the set for The Rehearsal, but to sketch the actors. I do not consider myself to be in any way a figurative artist so this was a real challenge to me. However, I focused on the costumes and outlines, which is my usual method of making observational drawings.
The set, designed by William Dudley, could not have matched my interests better – it was full of intricate archways, trellises, doors and hanging lamps. I could not wait to draw it. During the tech rehearsal there were several unexpected (for me) lighting changes, throwing up shadows against the backdrop and changing the dimensions of the spaces. It exactly replicated what I want in my paintings and drawings: repetition of shape and image, changes in scale and dark shapes set against light backgrounds followed by the reverse – light shapes against a dark background. I just couldn’t draw fast enough! Listening to the baroque(?) music also created an atmosphere as I frantically drew.
After lunch that day the actors rehearsed and so I sketched them, attempting where possible, to indicate where they were in relation to the set and the auditorium. At least the set and seats did not move, whereas obviously the actors did move for much of the time.
I snatched glimpses of them – hoping for a few minutes without movement. I was shuffling a drawing board and two sketch books, working on several drawings at once.
Eventually osteo-arthritis caught up with me, and my hand, now claw-like, had to be rested, which allowed me to enjoy the acting and plot, which had partly escaped me through the deep concentration of observing the cast. I find the theatre timeless and was desperately hoping that the parking warden for Northgate car park was equally timeless as I realised that I had long overshot my parking ticket.
I had a second opportunity to draw the cast on the day of the Dress Rehearsal – Still on a steep learning curve for this new way of working, I noted to myself not to sit above any lighting again when wanting to look down at the stage and still be able to draw. Even though for much of the time I do not look at my paper when drawing, there are times when I want/need to. I could see the stage well enough, but not my drawing board because of the glare from a reflection from the floor below me. I reminded myself that this residency is not just about the outcomes in drawings and paintings, but also the experience of being part of the inner workings of the theatre.