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  • Writer's pictureMarion Flanagan

Exploring Paint as a Medium at Slade Summer School 15 July – 2 August 2019

While in London, I’m motivated to absorb all I can of this vibrant contemporary art world. So during the summer break from my MA course at Chelsea College of Arts, I decide to attend Summer School at Slade School of Art.

In the first week of this 3-week course on contemporary painting, we make introductions, review slides of contemporary artworks, and set up studio spaces, but in no time I feel my mental boundaries being breached. I’m pushed to display my work in new ways. I take one of the strips of synthetic rubber sheeting which I used in one of my sculptures at the MA Show, and throw it over a new abstract work I just finished on unstretched canvas.

Abstract painting on unstretched canvas created at Slade School of Art (left), combined with synthetic rubber strips at floor height (centre), and hung above eye level (right), and with other students' work.

These new wall-based works allow me to present my ideas in a less restrained way compared to the rectangular, stretched canvases I typically use. In the future, I would like to exhibit one of these combinations along with my sculptures and paintings to bring into question the clear distinctions that viewers draw between 2D and 3D works of art.

Next, I’m creating a painting which includes a detail of my sculpture Untitled from the MA Show (shown below). As I’m drawing towards its completion, I’m challenged to bring the texture of the subject matter in the painting in line with the physical material which I have with me in the studio.

Untitled, 2019 Synthetic rubber, MDF, and metal stand (left) and synthetic rubber material sample in the studio at Slade (right).

Responding to this challenge, I pour the Dulux gloss paint I purchased at the DIY store onto the horizontally-positioned canvas (images below). Imagining the way that environmental contaminants seep into our homes and our bodies, I move the paint around the canvas using a self-made cardboard tool. My research has taught me that petroleum by-products are used in the oils which lubricate car motors which often leak and drip onto the pavement. Unfortunately, the rain water washes this oil into our soils and drinking water. Most people are aware of the problems caused by burning petroleum, which produces carbon dioxide, but there are many other health risks for humans that originate from the removal of petroleum from the earth. I find it interesting that it’s benign while sitting in the earth’s crust and it only becomes dangerous once humans activate it.

The thick gloss paint is holding the sweeping gestures made by my hand motions, and I leave it to dry. Looking at the final dry painting, I can’t help but feel that this version more closely captures the idea of petroleum products seeping undesirably into our domestic spaces. The tiny rubber plant sitting in the sunlit window is certainly overwhelmed by this wave of black paint.

Work in progress for Uninvited, 2019

Uninvited, 2019

Acrylic paint, gloss alkyd paint, and photo transfer

160 x 120 cm

For my third exploration during this course, I’m using the fluid properties of paint to produce monoprints. I spread thinned oil paint onto Perspex then press this onto paper creating a reverse, transferred image.

Monoprints (works in progess) by Marion Flanagan

I extend the learning from this first trial by using black paint to act as a visual link to the black petroleum-based rubber I had been using in my sculptures. I want to emulate the hanging strips of rubber from my standing sculpture so I create a stencil overlay. Working on inexpensive paper makes it possible to more playful and focus on the progression of the work, rather than concerning myself with how it might be exhibited.

Monoprints on paper made at Slade School of Art by Marion Flanagan


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