Suzanne Moss - Hearth

Wednesday 27 November - Sunday 22 December 2019 


The exhibition consists of paintings from Series Hearth, a suite of 26 paintings painted between June 2017 and September 2019, made in response to studies made whilst the artist in residence at Murray’s Cottage, Hill End in late 2014.

The hearth and surrounds of the old stove in Murray’s Cottage feature a mix of found Nouveau and Deco tiles. Created by Margaret Ollie, the tiles clashing palette was visually shocking, as I’d been working with a high key palette for around ten years. After avoiding looking at them for the first week, I became mesmerised by the jarring juxtapositions.

Fascinating things happened to light in the cottage - no wall was straight and large cracks in the hewn rock walls flashed daylight at certain moments. Late morning, the thickly glazed tiles reflected shards of coloured light from the adjacent window onto the red-painted concrete floor and cream walls. I made a dozen small painted studies from these effects.

A couple of years later, I began to work with these studies. The early compositions provided structural starting points and a complex palette to explore subtle and awkward colour interactions in compositions that wanted both dynamism and stability. The co-existence of seeming opposites has long intrigued me; the painting of light with the dense materials of painting was the major focus of my doctorate. A painting can be animated by light, somewhat like us - flesh animated by life force. Any form of poetic expression has an important role in reminding us of our shared humanity, especially given the prevalence of breaches of human rights.

One of my students innocently asked ‘Why would anyone paint abstract?’ One might consider it to be like poetry is to literature rather than the novel, where all is laid out for the thinking mind to grasp and feel comfortable. More about feeling and contemplation than rationalism, abstraction draws on our first language - the language of colour, shape and mark – and can speak to us profoundly, given the time, openness and willingness to listen. People laughed at Matisse, but how clever he was:

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.

Seeking to make paintings where there’s a dance between colour serenity and pattern-interrupting discomfort, with structural balance and tension, is not like Goldilocks and the bed being too hard or too soft, but both. Hard edges and soft territories are shifted many times in these paintings until a work seems to belong to itself. And if a painting returns to the studio, it might become something else. Like us, we’re not done yet.