06 March 2011

Katrina Blannin


Can you briefly describe what you do?

Perhaps my work is closest to constructivism; gradually moving towards to a more systematic approach as time goes by. Within the ‘frame’ or ‘window’ of the canvas (piece of paper…..) I am searching for the best possible composition or arrangement of elements: balance – a truth, or simplicity. My paintings are initially planned quite carefully, with a starting point of a grid: the geometry is basic. However, sometimes change en route is necessary usually with regard to tone or colour nuance. Sometimes I discover new things through the process and slightly shift the approach. Recently the painted shapes have been applied in acrylic glazes – many layered/thick or left just thin and the material quality of the linen is allowed to play its part for tone. I have also found a way to make watercolours by cutting up the paper into shapes, painting them and then reassembling them like a jigsaw: I like this constructivist approach, which can be repeated. I am also constantly thinking about colour/tone: reaction, interaction and design: resonance and dissonance.

What drives you to make work?

The painting itself drives me along every day, every week. There is so much to do and often not enough time. The next step is important. (I was also thinking that it’s a bit like working in a dark room developing black and white prints and watching the images appear in the tray – after all that preparation it’s still always exciting to see the finished work – never quite what you imagined)

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

The good times are when I have no distractions (life) and I can just get on in a disciplined way. My studio is small but easy to get to and I make sure I have efficiently set it up with everything I need. In this chaotic world I depend on routine  - and if no one is around good music and time to think. When I am not teaching (part time) I am in the studio a few days a week. I have organised my practice so I can always pick up where I left off – pretty much.

How long have you been working in that way?

For about ten years. Before that I used to work hard but in a much more expressionistic, spontaneous, figurative way without as much preparation or planning and I think I disappointed myself too often with the final results. I am more often content that I am making progress now. When I finished my MA I went through a transition period and discovered that painting itself is beautiful and inspiring and has a fantastic language of its own – I didn’t want to be concerned anymore with what it was ‘about’. I became less concerned with narrative. I suppose I am interested in the abstract as a universal language.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

Over the last few years M Martin, K Martin, Heath, Hill, Wise et al (see Constructed Abstract Art in England by Grieve). The De Stijl movement: Von Doesburg/Mondrian. Scandinavian Concrete eg. Ib Gertsen. Robyn Denny, Maija Isola (Marimekko), Jeremy Moon, Sonia Delaunay, Paul Nash, Jeffrey Steele, Anni Albers. Josef Albers, Walker Evans, Niki de Saint Phalle, Ben Nicholson, Sybille Berger and more. And anything in the National Gallery.

(In her essay, ‘The Writings of Mary Martin’ 1990, Hilary Lane discusses Mary Martin’s idea that all ‘words’ or information needed to describe the artworks should be embedded in the work itself; that written language cannot always express or explain the processes and decisions made during their construction. Mary Martin wanted the story of how her work was made to be clear to the person when looking at it. And although proportion, rhythm and measurement were key she wanted to emphasise the unexpected and a need to remain inventive. Of the process of construction itself Martin wrote that it is: ‘a thinking making process, not necessarily in three dimensions. Internal logic is the key. The success of such a process is wholly dependent on a right choice of symbols. The choice is based on intuition and experience.’)

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

The North Norfolk coast, swimming outside: sea/lidos, walking, plants, quilting, stained glass windows, buildings, music, film….

How would you like people to engage with your work?

I am not sure. Perhaps with some knowledge of art. I know I wish my art history education had been better.

Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

I was lucky enough to go to a cold grey Paris recently: it was lit up by the small stained glass windows in the shape of sunbursts and crosses in the tombs of the Pere Lachaise cemetery, Theo Von Doesburg’s stained glass windows in the Pompidou show and the windows of the Notre Dame.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

Arranging a group show at Charlie Dutton Gallery.

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