Thoughts on Local Colors and Pigments
By Celia Wilson
I began using local pigments in 2006 when I was focusing on a stretch of farmland for my year three studio work at the Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University. It occurred to me to try using the local red clay. I was already painting on the studio wall in acrylic paint, and so I experimented with the clay—using Richard Long's mud works as inspiration to get me going. He had obviously managed, so I was up the ladder having a go myself! Also, an exchange student from the Glasgow School of Art was investigating and writing about how Maoris made paint before colonization, and that too was an avenue of interest to explore.
Thus, for my post graduate year (2008) at the University of Canterbury, I collected local pigments in Canterbury, on the South Island of New Zealand, where I had moved during the previous year. This was an excellent way to learn about the new landscape. In 2008, I wrote a research essay titled An Investigation Into Locally Found Pigments in North Canterbury and Banks Peninsula and Their Historical, Experimental and Contemporary Use in Paint. In this way I learned about the development of pigments - both for paint and dyes, but mainly paint, of course.
In addition to acrylic paints, I create watercolors and oils, usually relating the colors to their place of collection. I am particularly interested in allowing the pigment to freely show itself, with as little help from me as is possible. I continued gathering pigments in 2009, and am currently working towards three shows in 2010.
I read with interest the Turkey Red Journal article on Jaime Skolfield, whose work makes her points in such beautiful ways. Having traveled to Antarctica in February of last year, and finding it so incredible, I don't yet feel capable of doing Antartica justice in an artwork. The colors of the rocks, and the lichens were stunning. Of course, we could only photograph them!