Flattened objects and drop shadows


160814a (2016) oil on paper 35 x 25cm

This is a bad photo. Both green objects are badly bleached out, and light is reflecting off the paint surface in the shadows. Photographing paintings isn’t easy. Even professional photographers and printers have difficulties. Recently, there have been poor reproductions in the catalogues for the Frank Auerbach retrospective at Tate Britain (inaccurate colours), and the current Alex Katz: Quick Light show at Serpentine gallery (too light on some of the darker paintings).

I once saw professional book designers at the National Gallery, London, comparing test prints with the original of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne. They spent a long time trying to ensure the best match.

However, I have to balance my time between photographing the paintings and actually making them so, today, this bad photograph will have to do.

I painted the shapes last month. Today I painted the background and drop shadows using a new paint (new to me): Raw Umber. It looks much grey-er than the colour on the tube. (Since then, I found the rich brown colour on the tube can actually be made by mixing Cadmium Yellow Hue with Dioxazine Purple.) The object colours and modelling don’t relate to the ground, so the shadows give them the appearance of being flat cut-outs hovering over another flat surface. That wasn’t my intention, but it reminds me of Laura Owens paintings.


Laura Owens Untitled (2014) oil, resin and charcoal on linen 175.2 x 152.4cm


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