Through the Looking Glass: Painting and the Imagination - 3D virtual exhibition by The Essential School of Painting

Through the Looking Glass: Painting and the Imagination

Fr, 08/14/2020So, 01/31/2021

curated by:

Through the Looking Glass: Painting from the Imagination
Often it is quite difficult to find a way in to working from the imagination. How can you create a parallel world in painting, one that expresses the unconscious, the dream, or the hidden parts of the self? Drawing on many devices developed from surrealism and other twentieth century artists, tutor Dan Coombs showed ways to break down the boundaries between the real and the imaginary in artwork.

ISSI NASH Isnaini_arts (Instagram)
I welcomed the challenge of an online painting course at the beginning of lockdown to get back into painting and as a way to navigate my feelings about this unfamiliar new world. Painting from the Imagination has been an exercise in allowing ideas to come to the surface and to experiment with new techniques. Incorporating collage has allowed me a freedom and pace that excites me.

I am looking outwards at the expanse of our universe, our continual discoveries of what is beyond, changes to our physiological and psychological selves brought about by advances in technology and how data dominates our lives. Ultimately I am hopeful. Some scientists believe technology will save humanity, not destroy it. Scholars think that the belief and the pursuit of alien communication will become a new, updated version of religion. Will we live on different planets during our lifetime? Could we travel in time to a particular landscape? Perhaps we will be soothed by more emotionally intelligent AI systems? Subjects to fire up any imagination.

History shows that a rupture of this magnitude in the way we organise ourselves will result in a speeding up towards a future that we cannot currently imagine. Jostling positions for World Order, politics given over to corporations and extreme changes in lifestyle on a day to day basis…I am interacting with the uncertainty and possibility of it all.

My work is as a result of attending this course: Painting from the Imagination. This is a new path for me as I usually paint portraits. Being guided by Dan on a starting point for each work, always referenced by an artist, a beginning was created. All four paintings were painted in a very small amount of time and I like the quickness this way of working creates. Not too much time to overthink.
They are all clearly the beginning of a process and I have lots more to explore.
I enjoyed creating them all and nearly all mean something to me.
The most fun was "Sultan". Created from just making a marked pattern, I really enjoyed just the feel of putting the paint down and the colours. It was a really great experience and a totally unexpected outcome.

"No Idea, just happened" is exactly that. I used flowers and random collage and went where the paint took me. It felt heavy.

"Trauma" was started from a memory as a child when I would pick weeds for my mother because I thought they were beautiful. It’s unfinished but the trauma is in the middle when she died when I was 10.

"Janet" is who I am - somewhat but not all of me. What life has thrown at me and the scars it has left but the amazing life it has left me with also. I’ve had so much done to my body that I feel no shame in showing it, as it’s just a vessel. A vessel that needs a lot of intervention to work properly. It works pretty good now.

I grew up in Montreal, and except for eight years in Germany and Switzerland, I have always lived in Canada – until ten years ago when I started to split my calendar year between Ottawa and London.

My curiosity about the process of painting, and my desire to learn to express myself through painting began in earnest 12 years ago. By accident, I was introduced the absolute thrill of moving wet smooth acrylic paint across a surface and the surprises that happen moment to moment with each different colour, mark and brush stroke.

Determined to see where this eye- and heart-opening discovery might lead, I attended the Ottawa School of Art for two terms. Since then, for the last ten years on a regular basis when I’m not abroad, I have been painting with a small group of women, guided by a local/Ottawa artist, Vanessa Coplan.

From 2010-2016 in London, I attended numerous painting and drawing classes all excellent in various ways. For the last four years, I have been a student at ESOP, taking various courses in the autumn and winter terms. This year, after returning to Ottawa in March ‘just in time’ before The Lockdown took effect, I was able to Zoom into the ESOP classes for the third term of classes taught by Alison Harper and Dan Coombs. Surprisingly and interestingly for me, it has been a very positive experience to learn/paint/discuss in a group, online, from afar.

When painting, I’m on an adventure. I am happy with a big canvas stapled to the wall and seeing where my imagination takes me, but equally happy and challenged by a live model in front of me and a smaller canvas to work with. Colours and shapes are what excite me most. Attempting to get ‘a likeness’ or sticking to ‘a plan’ can sometimes quell my enthusiasm but I do also welcome those opportunities; there is always a lot to learn! A non-judgmental risk-taking exploration of what my brush with wet paint can reveal and express is my current, albeit enormous and hopefully never-ending, project.

LUCY THRELFALL @lucyjbthrelfall (Instagram)
I am interested in the idea of landscape as a form of self-portrait, or human portrait. The necessary editing process in translating natural forms into paint – what is noticed, how it is manipulated, how forms are suggested and how colour is deployed reveals human nature more poetically than a direct study of ourselves. In trying to express what we are not we can be more inventive and truthful.
I do my best work when I draw and paint outside where I can respond freely and unconsciously to nature. The goal is trying to describe what it feels like to see. I try to stay in a playful unconscious mode and switch off the critical brain. The riskier the mark, the closer I feel I get to some kind of truth. The most difficult part is staying connected to that brief moment between seeing and the naming of things where everything is a strange miraculous jumble of interlocking shape and colour. As Cezanne famously put it, ‘to paint from nature is not to paint the subject but to realize sensations’.
To me there seems to be a non-verbal, non-human language reverberating through nature – the way that forms relate to each other – that suggests an underlying narrative and I’m interested in conveying this through poetry and through stories from classical history. Sometimes the personalities of trees suggest unfolding dramas and figures will appear as if by magic, as they did in Apollo and Daphne.
Layering and overpainting is an important part of my process as the layers give a sense of shifting perception and reveal the evolution of thought. Through working with ESOP recently I have found using collage in paintings incredibly helpful for freeing my imagination and allowing for more invention.

MATT MULLINS Instagrsm@mmmmullins
My most recent body of work has been interested in the ‘utopian potential’ of spaces. For example, crowds are constructed much like a screen of individual, related ‘pixels’ that, when viewed together, form an entire image.

This crowd has an inherently utopian potential, and it is down to the individual elements to deliver on this potential. Clubs & music culture in particular holds such potential and have been a focus of more figurative works whilst working with the Essential School of Painting.

I have a foundation in Artist Film; which leads me to approach painting in the same manner as I would a film project, in which individual elements are brought together to create an overarching narrative. This isn’t to say I’m particularly interested in creating ‘cinematic’ paintings, its more that the technical processes of filmmaking that influences my work.

An interest in surface sits within a conversation between the ‘digital’ and the ‘analogue’. What I’m hoping to achieve is an exploration of the aesthetic qualities of screens presented through still images.

MUNISHA GUPTA @munisha_art (Instagram)
I am a visual artist, and a member of The Holborn Group and The Rookery Artist Collective.

Born in Agra, I have lived in India and Nigeria. I am currently based in London. The experience of such diverse places and cultures informs my work. The process of making art is a vehicle for recalling and reflecting on experiences of life. Fragments of everyday life are overlaid with shadows and ambiguities, moods and atmospheres. Ordinary and familiar things stared at long enough become muses ... prompts for delight or doubt ... and brush on canvas conjures up a parallel reality. In my recent series ‘Lockdown Extravaganza’, I have used line drawing, paint and mixed media to deflect the tensions of life this day through very balanced, fluid and yet busy composition.

The works in this selection recall memories growing up on the North Shore of Long Island just outside New York City. The mysterious and expansive ocean beaches, found objects, polished glass, stones, shells, and sea creatures inspire and appear in both figurative and abstract work. A longing idyllic natural world is often confronted by technology, the realities of adulthood, and a physical world that’s become increasingly hostile or unattainable.
Sarah Ruplin studied both architecture and fine arts at university. She went on to practice architecture, founding Praxis Studio in New York City in 2005. She has exhibited conceptual fashion shows under the name Noname Collective and exhibited at various galleries in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and New York City, including Fallon McElligott Gallery and Artists Space NYC. In Minneapolis, her work has been shown at the Soap Factory, the University of Minnesota Alumni Gallery, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

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