For any kind of black and white painting to work you have to be able to show the contrast between the two colours clearly. It’s a relatively straightforward thing to do, especially if you’re keeping the painting simple and uncluttered.
However, if you dare to venture forward a little and tease the boundaries of what you should and shouldn’t do, you suddenly come upon a whole heap of problems that need to be overcome. And, to be honest, the most glaring one is what happens when you mix the black and white together. You get grey.
Nothing wrong with grey whatsoever. Combine it with yellow and it looks amazing. Pop it in with silver and purple and you’re on to a winner. It’s use within a stark black and white painting though can be anything but easy. It’s the nature of grey to take the role of mediator between the light and dark. It tones down and tempers the extremes. Whilst that can be a good thing it can also destroy the greatness of black and white as a set of two abundantly wonderful colours. So caution, restraint and a proper approach to the end result are things I need to maintain when combining white and black paints on canvas.
So my use of it in this painting is entirely deliberate and necessary; to contain all that goes on in the middle. In a similar way to the behaviour of comets and meteors I kept the grey tones around the edges to represent their tails and vapourising debris (that can be shed from the outside as they travel through our atmosphere or across the night sky).
I think of hard dense rock, iron deposits, the blackness of carbon, ice tails, crystals and all the shapes and contours they form. I imagine the speed that these heavenly bodies must travel at and what it might feel like to pass one at close distance. When I put all that together I come up with an artwork like this. My abstraction of meteors and comets. And though it is exactly that – an abstract – it does have very recognizable forms and structures. Together with the textures I have layered up with the paint it also feels like it when you run your hands across it.
This complex but deceptively easy going abstract also features three different shades of black paint; each one with a different amount of gloss medium mixed with it. It has the effect of producing a matte, semi-sheen and gloss finish – something that looks great as light hits it from different angles.