Jennifer Letchet Paintings

My work explores fundamental elements of painting, the relationship between colour and line. I intend my paintings to affect the viewer optically with the illusion of shapes moving and receding. Colour theory is very important to my work. I use specific hues to symbolise ideas or emotions. The contained shapes on canvases seem more like objects than lines. My recent work explores natural and man-made disasters and the impact this has on our environment. I want to record the changing landscape through simplified shapes and colours.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Appropriation of shape

In a lecture about a completely unrelated subject: professional practice, I started thinking about the means by which shape can be created.  I want to explore these ideas further.  So far, I have found my shapes from drawings of satellite imagery and nature, and I have designed shapes from codes and systematic drawing.  Can I appropriate shapes?  I want to look at using other artists' shapes/works and appropriate them and use my style of painting to form a new interpretation.  The perception of the original works will completely change, elements of the work will be lost or concealed to the detriment or benefit of the work.  I could also appropriate shapes from graphic design, product packaging, the mundane and everyday, and photography. Or maybe maps?  This is something I plan to investigate through preliminary drawings and sketches before I put brush to canvas.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Design your own island

I have tried out several methods of code-making involving colours, text and dice throwing.  The best process so far is to throw two 20 sided dice at the same time, 45 times to create 45 coordinates.  I then plot these onto graph paper.  I have also devised a set of rules to accompany this process:

1) when drawing i must start from the top right corner (I am left-handed and so this is a necessity) and move in an anti-clockwise fashion across the page

2) in the dot-to-dot process, I must use the nearest in proximity dot without excluding some of the remote dots

3) I must use all the dots

4) the line must be continuous and join up

Once completed and all the dots have joined up, only then do I see the final shape, or image.  When drawing, there is no way of escaping a sense of authorship or aspect of intuitive drawing.  The rules do not cover all eventualities.

The random number selection and drawing rules enable me to create a shape which is self-referential.  In this manner I can design my own island in a controlled environment.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

18 Canvases (Part III)

I have finally finished my series of eighteen canvases charting my thought-process-journey.  This has been a useful experience in finding out what aspects of painting interests me, what colours work best, the impact of negative and positive space upon a painting and the materiality of paint in conjunction with surface quality.  I now want to show the works, hang them together and see them as a unit, a collective, like an archipelago which they reference (the eighteen islands of the Faeroe Archipelago).  I also, and quite pettily in fact, want to hang them in order of succession; I want to work out which ones were most successful and put them in that order.  This is how the other paintings look in the studio currently (apologies for the poor reproductions, my studio space is a bit of a mess).

Monday, 13 December 2010

Systems of drawing

I have been thinking about new ways of drawing and finding my shapes.  It has dawned on me that my shapes and forms are much more important to my work than I had originally thought.  The process of making my work is integral to my practice, therefore, why can I  not develop a process for my drawing?

In a sense, obviously drawing is a process in itself.  However, whatever I draw, the outcome is always similar due to the stylistic nature of the way I draw.  I used islands in my drawings as they had the appearance of my drawings and a wealth of imagery, almost like a library of forms that I could use and manipulate in my work.  Due to the outside references and associations, which I cannot ignore, it is time to reevaluate my forms.  

In order to link my work back to it's process, could I create a process or system for devising the drawing?  Like a code or plan.  The idea of using numbers to create my drawings; a systematic process.  Numbers are abstract forms in themselves.  I could use statistics, algebra, coordinates, or game-playing to inform and design my work.  Algebra could be used to highlight the code, i.e. x + 1y = z could mean A1 + blue =z (z being the work itself and the letters and numbers referencing the plots in the chart and the hues building up the image).  I could use coordinates to create a shape by almost doing a dot-to-dot.  

Where would the code come from?  I could find numbers from a variety of sources?  Random selection of Scrabble letters (and then add up my score), using a die, statistics, weather temperatures, using an abacus (or some other form of picking random colours which related to numbers) or a text based code.  The options are endless.  My next move is to try these out really with some graph paper to see how successful this method of using codes could be.

Here is my first experiment using Skittles to produce coordinates, it was a little fiddly and I couldn't get enough options from 5 colours (each combination of colours formed a number).  I need to find other ways of cultivating lots of numbers.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tutorial with Geraint Evans 08.12.2010

This tutorial came about when I have felt like I'm at a crossroads with my work.  I have been feeling frustrated at the lack of development; I believe my work has not been moving as quickly as I have wanted it to.  I have been feeling bogged down and bored with painting the same things.  It's not that I feel that those paintings are unsuccessful, but I feel I have more to say.

G. Evans asked several questions of me about intentions of my work, what the viewer will read and what I am interested in.  He felt I needed to work out the most important aspect of my work.  In order to accomplish this, he felt I needed to spend designated blocks of time perusing each element: island drawing, materiality of paint, and colour.  He suggested I research into Phenomenology, maps, the idea of mapping, and topology.  He pointed something out which I had not given thought to before; when talking about my work, I put most of my attention and emphasis upon colour theory and process.  I think this is because these are the elements which you notice first.  I also spend little time in choosing the shapes, I like them for their quality, but I do not rigorously alter them.  I pick a series of islands and explore formats.

This raised an important question for me - why do I draw and why these shapes?  What do I want to draw?  Another problem is my blur.  Let's not call it a 'problem', but a conflicting element.  I've always intended it to create movement (with the help of complementary hues) and a feeling of disorientation in the viewer as a result.  Evans believes this is not the case, and I am inclined to agree with him.  Movement is caused but there is no other emotion or sensory effect.  This brought several concerns to me.

Firstly, my work is perceived as unclear, it does not do what I set out for it to do.  Maybe, I am not arguing its case well enough.  However, I feel f a work cannot speak for itself and relies upon a large amount of text, it fails visually.

Secondly, the islands do not sit well with my approach and ideas on materiality.  They create something which feels Political or Geographical in content.  I have no desire to make comments on such matters, therefore, islands are inappropriate.

Thirdly, I spend a heavy amount of time considering colour theory.  Obviously all artists must pay attention to colour theory as all colours reference something and react to each other in very different and unique ways.  However, I am not sure if I can sustain these ideas and create work based purely on colour theory and remain interested.  This brings me to my fourth and most problematic issue.  The use of colour theory has been used ad explored before.  How can my work relate to contemporary art?  Art which is solely about art has been attempted before, it is not relevant.  What are my other concerns?

As a result of this tutorial, I began reflecting about my work and asking for the opinions of those around me to gather other responses to my work and ideas.  It seems I am beginning to be labeled a Landscape Painter (which is no bad thing, it's just incorrect), someone who is interested in geography.  I do not blame the viewer, I blame myself.  My intention has not been clear.  By painting/ drawing islands I bring connotations to the work immediately.  Even by refusing to state the shape, I am lying to the viewer.  Islands automatically reference territory and borders, therefore disputes, Politics, Geography and, environmental issues.

I have been using islands in my work for the last sixteen months.  It was a natural progression for me.  My previous work stemmed from drawings, using reduction techniques, of places and nature.  My work reduces objects/places to silhouettes or contours, therefore giving a bloblike quality which felt to me like islands in an ocean.  I wanted to play upon this idea and actually depict something which it looked like already.  I quickly became interested in the idea of collections, compositions and so archipelagoes were my new interest.

I liked islands for the wealth of imagery, quality of shape which I could easily manipulate.  I could paint for weeks without looking at a single map.  I am not interested in maps or geography, but of mapping as a concept.  The creation of space and creating pictorial boundaries in the mind is my sole purpose.

In the last two - three months on the MA, with constant reflection and reactions from those around me, I have come to realise I have not been successful in my aims.  My work does not do what I thought it could.  I need to abandon islands for the work to progress.  Which leads neatly on to, what shall I paint now?

Monday, 6 December 2010

18 Canvases (Part II)

I have drawn out the shapes for my series of eighteen canvases.  Each canvas has an individual island from the Faeroe Archipelago and a different colour combination in my experimentation with colour theory.  The one constant is that I have modified the scale to unify the sizes of the shapes, irrespective of reality.  This creates my own iconography; the islands, forms, turn into a visual language.  Almost my own alphabet.


In this piece I was using the complementaries violet and lemon yellow.  The violet is much darker and purer in hue to enhance the luminosity of the yellow.  I wanted the island to glow out of the darkness.


Again, I used complementaries magenta and green-blue, but I have used a grey version of green-blue to test if the effect will be similar.  I find that the magenta does not glow as the yellow did above.  It also does not advance out of the picture plane as I felt 1/18 did.  The grey appears to have a dulling effect.


Here I used a lighter background, but still complementaries (Green-blue and red-orange).  I think the green-blue needed to be greener for the effect to have truly worked.  However, I could have had an oranger form.  The lightness does not detract from the luminosity which was one of my main concerns.


With the success of 1/18, I wanted to see if I could go darker still.  What is darker than almost black? Black.  I feel this has been unsuccessful, the black does not interact with the orange as a blue would have done.  It flattens the image and has a dulling effect as the grey did in 2/18.


I did not want to solely concentrate on complementary systems.  Here I have used an analogous combination of red-orange and magenta.  The hues fight in a different way; they clash but they do not enhance one another.  This piece is hard to look at, in that way if fulfills my aim of destruction of the image.  The colours do not sit quietly, which combined with the blur, alters the form completely.  I ant to pursue these ideas further.


After my success with analogous hues, I tried out harmonious hues: violet and magenta.  The colours sit well together on the same plane.  The blur feels unnecessary here.  Out of all the paintings so far, this piece feels the easiest, the calmest, to view.  As a result of this, this pice fails to work optically.

Wall Drawing (Part II)

My wall drawing has been slowly evolving with each new form.  I like that the composition is very organic; it is not predetermined but almost intuitive in where I place each individual shape.  This is how it looks at the moment.  The issue I have now, is when to stop? How do you know when a drawing is finished; it could have been complete with just one form?

Destruction of the image

I find my sketchbook is one of my most useful tools for developing ideas, true experimentation and generating ideas.  I've found that in the last few weeks my work hasn't been moving forward as much as I would have liked.  I've spent the last week sketching and drawing to work through my writers' block.

My work, in the simplest terms, is about the interpretation if image and shape.  I use illusionary tactics to affect the viewer optically, to confuse and eradicate meaning and representation.  I have been captivated by the idea of destruction of the image.  I want to try out various ways of destroying my shapes, destroying in the sense of concealment.  I want my shapes to be hard to find and to see clearly.  This idea I have used with my blur; the blur alters the forms and creates movement in the picture plane.

I want to use colours which make viewing the work difficult, like the red and orange combination of Bridget Riley (I saw the piece below at the Bridget Riley Retrospective last weekend at the National Gallery), or silver on grey, or using different surfaces, i.e. gloss on matte.  I could even remove colour.

I'm going to try out all my various ideas in my collection of my 18 canvases: a collection of islands and thoughts.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Colour Swatches

I make my own paint swatches to work out colour combinations and to find the place where colours 'click', i.e. when one colour meets its complementary.  I mix my own oil hues with damar varnish and linseed oil, which makes the colours more glossy and therefore they reflect light.  I mark my swatches with the ratios of hue to hue in order to find a colour again.  I use this process when planning a new painting.

Morden Hall Park

I have been continuously using photography, not with a concise idea of why, but I want to take the time to explore it and to see if it will feed into my work.  I found these interesting forms in Morden Hall Park, a National Trust maintained park and wetlands.  Their physicality and intricate linear forms attracted me.  It was a wet day, so colours were exuberant and vibrant.

Crit 1 with Geraint Evans and Edwina Fitzpatrick

I had my first studio crit yesterday with my group and the above tutors.  There were several interesting and thought provoking readings into my work.  The drawn shapes were seen as, "crumbling patches in the wall", that were appearing three-dimensionally or dissolving on the plane.  The unrecognisable shapes were seen to have individually different presences.  Viewers were unsure if the forms were sitting or floating on the plane.  Ideas of positive and negative space were thrown into the mix in an attempt to understand what they were seeing.  My most valuable feedback was that the work needed a title to help cipher its content.

The pieces were seen to take on a completely different guise once the shapes were known to be islands.  It was seen to affect the illusionary makeup of the work.  A title would need not to explain or describe but to give a new route in, to the concept and issues surrounding the work.  This confuses me as I consider myself to be a process painter/drawer.  Why would one impose a concept to a process?  Surely the process is the concept?  One cannot exist with the other, they are mutually exclusive.   If the process is not clear, then this is surely a crossroads I need to consider; to be a concept artist or a process artist?

The paintings were viewed in an orderly and systematic way due to my meticulous colour measurement.  In contrast to the drawings, they were more intuitive and emotionally felt.  I could perhaps use colour or numbers as a key to the forms in my work and to reference the ideas of mapping.  The work needs to be more fluid with an easily understandable narrative.  Maybe my islands could become a metaphor for wider issues, or would that destroy the integrity of the work?  Bah humbug.

Wall Drawing

I am in the process of drawing my forms onto a wall sized piece of paper (200 x 250 cm) using 6B graphite.  This is the piece in its early stages.  I have been collating forms from various islands and archipelgos from the Philippines and Canada to the Faeroe Islands.  These forms I gather and draw on spontaneously and intuitively taking into account composition and space.  I want the forms to get smaller closer to the centre of the piece to highlight the sense of the shapes disappearing, or falling.  I do not know how the piece will eventually look which is a quality I am most excited about.  All my previous work has been meticulously planned, but I want to construct a piece which evolves naturally and gradually.  I want it to appear as if it grows and expands, like a tiny universe.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kensington Gardens 20.11.2010

Anish Kapoors beautiful sculptures in Kensington Gardens, London

Tate Modern 30.10.2010

I went to see the Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall featuring Al Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds.  This piece provoked an astounding reaction and was only seen as the artist perceived for a couple of days before the health safety dictators restricted access (apparently visitors frolicking could give them Cancer), and so I unfortunately got to see it behind a wire barrier.  It does look amazing though; millions of handcrafted porcelain seeds in a political response to the mass produced culture of China.

Friday, 19 November 2010

18 Canvases

I've started a new piece and have spent the last two days completing the arduous task of stretching and priming.  My process involves several steps: stretching cotton flax onto board (which is on a stretcher), I then apply three layers of acrylic primer (or gesso) and sand each layer down to create a smooth surface without trace of the weave.  I want to remove brushmarks to enhance the illusionary surface.  This will be contrasted by the unprimed edge of canvas to reveal the process and the act of painting.  The eighteen canvases will have one form; depicting one island from an archipelago.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Drawing I

This is my first piece; it comprises of 18 drawings of similarly sized forms.  It appears to create an almost alphabet of my visual language; a form of iconography.  The forms are taken from satellite imagery of the Faeroe Islands.  I have changed the scale and essentially the contours to meet my own demands.  I have drawn them in a specific manner to make them appear 3D, like floating forms which are ordered and regimented.  I want to cataloge my forms and have begun recording and documenting my shapes.  I haven't begun to think of titles for my pieces, therefore this drawing (as a collective) is as above.

Developing my research question

I want to narrow my field of research; I think the relevance of abstraction may be too broad a question.  Is process painting the most appropriate method for my practice; appropriating shapes to create my own iconography?  This could be diverging a little.  The relevance of abstraction is interesting in respect to contemporary painting.  Painting is considered almost outdated.  Abstraction in particular has not been 'popular' since the 1970s.  In relation to Nicholas Bourriaud's 'Relational Aesthetics', how can abstraction, which is devoid of meaning and interaction with the viewer, be seen as relevant?  How does process painting have a place in this context?

Saatchi Gallery

A mountain of speakers surrounding a piano.  Vibrations of sound were played which could be felt underfoot as you walked around the exhibit.

This exhibit filled a room of black geometric structures forming a web.

The dials of the 24 individual clocks would turn once every minute to tell the time as above.  I want one.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Kew Gardens

I've been experimenting with photography at the moment, playing with light and shapes.

My Research

This is what I am researching on at the moment:
Is pure abstraction still relevant in contemporary painting?  I will discuss what constitutes as pure abstraction in relation to the last popular abstract movement: Minimalism.  I am not going to define abstraction and discuss its various previous forms.  I will research into how Abstraction has progressed since Minimalism to analyse whether it still has a role to play in Modern art.

Firstly, I want to challenge the validity of Minimalism as pure autonomous abstraction in terms of painting.  Minimlaism as a concept constantly strived for pure art that was devoid of emotion, subject, content and references to reality.  I will look into the works of Frank Stella, Richard Allen and Peter Halley.  I want to see if Minimalist fulfilled its aims of abstraction free from representation through geometry, and whether this constitutes as, ‘pure‘ in terms of autonomy.

Secondly, since Minimalism, I want to research into the development of Abstraction and how it appears today in the context of artists Ingrid Calame,  Peter Zimmerman and Anselm Reyle, whose work revisits Modernist ideas.  How did Abstraction progress from Minimalism and what forms did it take?  I will examine what forms of abstract painting are created in contemporary art and the common themes and theories; if there has been a move from extreme autonomy like the Minimalists, or referential art in the form of Abstract Expressionism, reductive abstraction as in Piet Mondrian’s paintings or a creation of something completely new and alien to past ideals.  Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe states that,

‘‘One could see it coming when, in the late 1970s, artists and critics of the more literal and sentimental sort started to vociferously denounce what they called and still call, ‘blank Abstraction‘.  And despite its detractor’s malicious intent, it was indeed abstraction’s blankness that was at issue.  Minimalism…was all about blankness."

Finally, I want to address what is relevant in painting today; current concepts and theories, and whether Abstraction has a place in relation to these.  I will identify and categorise modern painting from the last decade and argue that Abstraction has a part to play.

Paintings at The Flyer, Bristol

Thursday, 28 October 2010

'Transnacionala; a Journey from the East to the West'

Eda Cufer wrote an interesting insight into the relationship between the institutions and art, "This is not a regret but a realisation that - without a system of institutions which by definition represents the field of contemporary art - there is no broader intellectual production; without a broader intellectual and creative production there are no differences; without differences there is no hierarchy of values; without a hierarchy of values there is no critical reflection; without critical reflection there is no theory; and without theory there is no universally-understood referential language, capable of communicating on an equal footing with other referential languages in other places and times of the existing world". Page 142, 'Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art'

Working Journal

I'm currently in my third week of my MA at CCW, University of the Arts London. I am going to be more proactive with my blog and use it as my working journal. At the moment, I am looking for a new direction with my work; I am trying to work out the relationship between my imagery and the formal content.

I have been doing a lot of drawing in the last couple of weeks, which is unusual for me; creating a bank of source imagery for satelite images and maps. I want to look at my shapes in the context of iconography. I had a tutorial today with Mark Fairnington who had a fresh look on my work; in terms of pattern.

So far, my aim is clear; to paint and produce works on a bigger scale which will engulf the viewer. I want to create intimate collections and look into the visual difference between both formats. I also want to start cataloging my shapes to form a dictionary almost; a sort of bible for my visual language.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


In the exhibition, 'Territory', my work will approach the topic of territory as an area defined by a boundary. My recent imagery comes from a collection of maps and satellite photographs of remote islands are archipelagos. An archipelago is a cluster of related islands. They are linked and yet isolated pieces of territory. Maps are integral as they parallel the idea of mapping colour and shapes. Maps are a form of isolating, collecting, recording shapes and a sense of place. Shapes are isolated and ambiguous. The jagged patterned forms and rhythmic lines enhance the feeling of motion. Motion and rhythm increase the optical effects of colour.

The work explores fundamental elements of painting, the relationship between colour and line. The line acts as a boundary between two complementary hues. The two hues merge on the line creating a soft blur. The intention is to affect the viewer optically with the illusion of shapes moving and receding. The two complementary hues sit next to each other are almost in battle for supremacy. The viewer’s eye cannot interpret which colour is dominant. This is enhanced by the organic, curved line, which divides them. Patrick Heron stated that a jagged line is preferred to a straight one in the juxtaposition of two hues. The jagged line forms a boundary between land and water, and between two hues seeks to map, record and contrast.

Territory at Centrespace Gallery

I am exhibiting recent paintings on the theme of territory at Centrespace Gallery in Bristol in April. Please see details of the exhibition below.
6 Leonard Lane, Bristol, BS1 1EA
The Private View: 2 April 6.30pm - 9.30pm
Exhibition continues 3 April - 7 April 10.30am - 5.30pm

Drawn Archipelagos

Hebrides I

North Arctic Archipelago

Archipelago Reconfigured

The Mortlocks

Hebrides II