Selected texts and reviews

Mercus Barn installation

The Drawing Collective at #21 Abstract Project, Paris 2016

Threeworks installed

Colour in Place


4 Part Study

Mercus Barn installation

Colour/Boundary at the Slade Summer School

Not Titled (Orange Fan ) Private Collection.UK

Installation Colour/Boundary, Gallery North, Newcastle 2014

Colour in Place (Colore nei Luoghi)

Surface Connections, Holden Gallery Manchester
Eye and Mind #1

Catalogue Essay, Eye and Mind, The Mercus Barn, Mercus-Garrabet, Midi Pyrenees, France 2015

Sharon Hall’s paintings find complexity through colour rather than form, which is to say that a deliberately transparent permutation of geometric form becomes a context for the subtle shifts in colour relationships, that can be further explored as the paintings comprise more than one interchangeable panel. The resolved state of a complete painting is in Hall’s words “found”, through trial and error—the initial structure an adequate, or neutral armature, on which to place colour. Optically, there are also shifts of space that reflect the positive-negative aspects of the structure where there is also a tonal contrast. Take, In Part Sequence (Orange, Yellow, Terra Verde) 2014, in which this constant realignment of the segments of colour is a product of the duration of viewing. The rational construction of repeated triangles connected with a partial and implied grid is counterpoint to the structuring influence of the reduced chromatic range of orange, yellow and green. In, In Part Stacked Painting (GreenOrange, Yellow, White,) 2014, surface incidents from making—the action of a brush as well as characteristics such as absorbency—are all incorporated rather than illuminated. The two part painting, an overall vertical, the upper part of which is horizontal, reflects a duality in its repeated doubling—of two panels, and two pairs of triangles and displays a motion not unlike serial or fugue patterns in musical composition. In Hall’s paintings system and unitary repetition are willingly undermined rhythmically and not relied upon to provide cohesion—they represent a necessary premise that is then exposed to reconfigurations vis-à-vis colour.


David Rhodes

The Drawing Collective at #21 Abstract Project, Paris 2016

Cet ensemble de peintures et de gouaches, représenté ici dans les photographies, étudie les différentes manières dont les propriétés de la couleur et les structures géométriques simples peuvent travailler ensembles. Il résulte de leur interaction une résonance optique et un décalage de spatialité qui transcendent leur apparence simple. Cette série explore la matérialité physique ainsi que les plus insaisissables qualités de lumière et de translucidité. Elle reflète mon rapport à la place non seulement à travers la manière dont peuvent opérer la lumière et l'ombre dans un cadre architectural mais aussi dans ce qu'elle de mon intérêt pour la couleur ancrée et certaines traditions italiennes de fresques et de peintures murales.

Sharon Hall, translation Vincent Patillet

Colour Boundary

Abstract Critical


Sharon Hall’s work is also strongly related to this tradition of ‘weightless’ abstract painting, calling to mind Kenneth Noland’s ‘chevron’ paintings especially. Her work adopts more evenly-applied zones of colour as an armature. Unlike Sweet, she does not vary the texture of her brushmarks, and her zones of colour neatly abut one another. Consequently, each area of colour takes on a more significant role. Some of the most successful works by Hall make use of asymmetrical arrangements: these allow the colours to function in structurally surprising ways. The quietly luxuriant Untitled (Orange Fan) (2009) is built upon a rational division of diagonally-subtended wedges of colour which radiate outwards from the centre of the canvas. Neither the division of the wedges, nor the colours used, are divided symmetrically: this decision gives the impression that the canvas ‘swings’ across the surface in a semi-clockwise movement. However, the strong cadmium red. which is just off-centre, prevents the painting from swinging too wildly off-kilter, ‘holding’ the composition together in a fragile equilibrium.

Hall also works successfully within the tondo format. This was rarely used in Western painting as it was difficult to reconcile with representational pictorial space. Abstract painting is more amenable to the format, but it poses its own challenges. Hall utilises a small scale, but the tondo format is successful in lending the work a sense of weightlessness. Tondo with Linen (2011) consists of six segments varying sizes. The upper half consists of three larger variations of grey, while the lower half consists of smaller segments of dull orange, ochre and grey-blue. Again, the zones of colour vary depending upon the ‘weight’ of the colour: the cooler segments requiring a larger zone in order to balance the smaller zones of warmer hues. Hall’s rectangular formats pose more of a difficulty in that the zones of colour are ordered in a more symmetrical fashion. In works such as Not Titled (Yellow Diagonals) (2011), Hall offsets this by utilising very closely-valued zones of lemon against the bare canvas, to lend the work a subtle radiance. However, the more assymetrical works create more pictorial interest for the viewer.

Stephen Moonie

The Gravity of Colour

                    In a group of recent paintings, some of which are quite small and circular in shape, hard-edged beams, or wedges, of colour radiate outwards, sometimes from the centre and sometimes from a corner of the canvas. In several of these works the relationship between colour and light could be seen to be almost graphically represented by the format. These paintings further suggest a temporary stasis in a process of double movement which proceeds both outwards from a point and also moves in a circular fashion around that point, thus emphasising the rhythmic relationships between colours. These relationships heighten the contrasts between colour and light, or tone. Rather than establishing a sense of consistent intervals between individual colours, the paintings generally follow a pattern of grouping two or three closely related, often pale, colours together and then juxtaposing them with a sharply contrasting beam of a very different colour. For instance, a sequence of three successive shades of cream may be followed by a deep crimson. This suggests gradations of light falling unevenly across a wall and then being interrupted by a differently coloured object.

Stuart Bradshaw

Not Titled (Orange Fan ) COLOUR Boundary catalogue essay

The painting’s structure is based on rational divisions of its surface area, first into two, around the perpendicular centre line, with the resultant pair of rectangles subdivided by diagonals drawn from the top corners to the mid-point of the bottom edge. These simple moves establish what emerges as a gestalt, namely an inverted pyramid, balanced on its apex. But the work is not symmetrical. The right hand triangle is further divided into three more areas that are not answered on the left. These three shapes are perceived slightly differently to those within the pyramid. They seem to move in a one-sided clock-wise movement, adding a dynamic in terms of geometry, which is taken up by the colour, swinging through the spectrum from orange to yellows, deep then pale. The closeness in hue of the orange allows it to hang off the edge of the cadmium red, but the red, which is the key architectural element in the painting, is strong enough to support it. 

The surface is consistent throughout, while the density of the pigment confirms that the colour is ‘built’ out of the traditional material of painting, selected from the traditional palette rather than from the refraction of white light arranged around a colour wheel. The geometry is also practical rather than aspiring to the art of pure relationships. Left of centre the ambient chromatic temperature changes. The blue, ochre and umber represent the earth colours ranged against the more luxurious cadmiums, dividing the light in the painting virtually into two seasons. This gives rise to the significant visual experience offered by the painting, created by the contrast between the conditions across the recto/verso axis. It is as though the eye is taking a journey from north to south through several latitudes, sweeping left to right, from grey-blue to pale yellow, before returning to the chromatic and formal hospitality provided by the red triangle.





David Sweet

Colour Boundary Peel Review

Peel Magazine

COLOUR/Boundary is artist and curator David Sweet’s vision. A proposition, investigation, and area of research, ‘colour in painting’ resides at the centre of this thesis. Northumbria University have motive to hold such an exhibition in Gallery North, as their Colour Studio Northumbria (CSN) shares interests in the central themes of the exhibition. It’s not just at Northumbria University though, ‘Colour Research in Painting,’ it seems, is gaining reputation through other institutes such as the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and the Academy of Fine Art in Helsinki.

Colour is not a new concern within painting. In the early 16th century Titian’s disregard for the rules of composition in favour of a concern with colour, was one of the first major investigations into colour as a vehicle within painting2. Leaping forward to the 19th and 20th century, Paul Klee used colours and shades to create a feeling of balance or ‘rightness’3, and Mondrian was concerned with exploring the relationship between elementary colours.4It seems that more so than any other fine art practice, painting certainly has a hold over matters of colour.

Entering Gallery North, it is a minimalist hang. Mostly small paintings are hung formally on white walls, each artist displays two or three paintings side by side, and as the space is navigated, one observes each artist’s work in turn.  It’s a fairly conservative set-up, but it seems appropriate for the works on displayModest paintings by Caroline de Lannoy seem to initiate the exhibition; two small square boards hang side by side; according to the list of works, they are both part of a series of works titled Re-echo (2013). The compositions are a division of space via lines (creating precise geometric sections), and each of which is painted in hues of the same colour; in the case of these two paintings, red and green. They looked, to me, familiar; modernist renderings of a spectrum of hues. Lannoy’s works seem to evoke the deconstruction of fields of vision and the separation of colours through geometric forces. The alchemy of colour seems of significant importance, the precise mixing of gradients of colour and also the application of the paint in such a way as to remove the artists’ hand told me that this was not a painting born of passion, but of science.

Moving on, I found myself drawn to a painting by Mali Morris. Titled Wilbury (2012), the wet translucent repetitive brush strokes build a lattice, and at the front of the picture plane, a series of circular motifs are painted in flat colour. There is intensity in the latticework. Each layer has been painted out of synch with the prior, some of the colours are muddied and blurred from working wet on wet, whilst the ground of vivid colour holds true and firm. There is a tension between the wet painterly latticework and the hard-edged circular motifs. The paintings of Morris explore the boundaries of different kind of pictorial spaces, using colour and opacity as the means for this separation.

In the accompanying catalogue to COLOUR/Boundary, David Sweet sets out his curatorial agenda, drawing up a compelling dialogue through which he creates a comparison between the role of music in film, to the role of colour in painting. He compiles a short history of colour in painting from the 16th and 17th century via the Impressionists, to arrive at the modern day, all the while proposing that the works on display in COLOUR/Boundary involve an ‘invented terrain’ in which ‘colour relationships become visible within chosen boundaries’5 (Sweet, 2014).

Of Sharon Hall’s paintings, the work ‘Not titled (White Diagonals with Linen)’ (2013) grabs my attention. A small linen canvas is primed with a transparent ground. White diagonals stretch out from the centre of the canvas to the frame, and within these sections we find white triangles of different opacities. The result is a refined study of the relationship between the pure white and textile of the linen. The opaque white paint moves to translucent white, and then bare linen. The white paint acts as a device to create a separation between reality and painted space, the tools of a painter laid bare.

In contrast to the other paintings on display, Clyde Hopkins presents a series of larger paintings that use a much wider array of colours, forms and marks. His energetic paintings feature swirling colourful forms sat atop pointillist renderings of organic forms. I am reminded of sedimentary layers in the earth, the twisting branches of trees and of cellular structures. His palette is diverse, but tonally muted, as if one were viewing colour through a heat wave. His investigation into colour is chaotic, the eye sweeps across the surface of the picture plane, restless, and the vast amount of visual information tricks the retina and the colours and forms change with each dart of the eye.


David Sweet, in line with his curatorial vision, presents his own work. The alchemy of paint sings from his paintings, especially in ‘Moulin Rouge’ (2013). Made in response to Matisse’s ‘L’Escargot,’ the composition is a geometrical rendering, with a central diamond motif surrounded by coloured rectangular subdivisions. Colour, and its placement within the pictorial space, is the central goal of this work. Sweet recognises this within the catalogue, in which he suggests that the opposition of primary colours is breached via the use of green, which is of course born of blue and yellow and also the complementary of red. Sweet’s methodology is one of carful consideration of how colour constitutes the painted form, and through minimalist renderings in paint he is able to investigate and manipulate this process.


COLOUR/Boundary goes a long way in achieving a visual thesis of the use of colour and it’s boundaries within painting. The works on display evidence different approaches to this theme, and provoke one to look and think, closer and deeper. Thinking about the other paintings on display in Newcastle at the present time, whilst not as avant-garde as ‘Riff/t,’ or as summative as ‘Painting Past Present: A Painter’s Craft,’ ‘COLOUR/Boundary’ presents a much more academic, even scientific, approach to painting. Paring painting down to its quintessential concerns, I am again reminded of Braque, and reflect that sometimes, it’s the most overt statement that is the most thought provoking.

Rachel McDermott is an Artist and Writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.


Rachel McDermott