Sarah McNulty: colour, paint and painting
“Error, chance and economy form a large basis of the materials I arrive at alongside specific choices. Years of misuse and indirect methods have allowed many firm decisions to be undermined and enlivened. I use mainly oil and gouache; though ink, dirt, beeswax, pigmented gesso, natural dyes and anything else at hand will often enter. Usually working on a number of paintings at once, I also work with fabrics, objects, printed acetates (usually photographed underlayers of failed paintings) and other various found materials to open up possibilities of unearthing an image. I also started making books of paintings on paper that initiate and develop new images. Schmincke gouache was a real surprise after years of oil paint, and far more effectively achieved certain endpoints futilely attempted with oil. There is a bite to it I never anticipated from a water-based paint. The rapidness of it suits wall paintings and immediate drawings which serve to eek out and refine images in subsequent paintings. The shift in pace which these varying mediums require is important to constantly upset rhythm.
I tend to make my own supports as this process often initiates the relationship with the painting. The weight, patina, scuffs and irregularities of an imprecise hand ultimately play a role in the final image. I prefer to go back and forth from stretched linen to panel to paper to wall, to keep the pressure and response of the surface inconsistent, so that each painting must be dealt with as its own entity. I used to make endless batches of gesso but often now prefer a more stable Lascaux size. The scale ranges from human to handheld, and is a combination of what I feel is needed at the time and what I come across or can recycle. I appreciate the practicalities and idealism of reuse. The paintings are not precious, often kicked around a bit while shifting from floor to wall to table. I often prefer a thin frame or panel so that the painting fuses more with the architecture of a space, obfuscating to some extent the issues of working within a frame.
My palette varies but is perhaps cyclical. I locate a lack in certain colours amongst everything in the studio, and try to balance this. Naples yellow, Payne’s Grey and Van Dyke Brown (ideally Old Holland, Sax, Roberson, Blockx, etc) are some of best colours I know, though often I look up and all the work has gone tender and pink. I try and shift when suddenly everything feels too pretty or too filthy. They are built up by a combination of beloved Cornelissen brushes, old solid lumpy ones not cleaned thoroughly, and a mass of rags. The relationship between the works being painted at the same time is intimate. They feed a lot into each other, and a floundering painting is sometimes used as a palette to mix on for another painting. Rather than fixing the failed painting by working back or painting over, it removes self-consciousness around what is not working, and reroutes it in unforeseeable directions. Perhaps all of these open and fluid processes coincide with a focus on points of rupture and collapse of an image.” ~ Sarah McNulty
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