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.