Q&A with Celia Gullett
Q: Tell us about your process…
I use oils. I am interested in colour and surface. Generally my work is layered, it happens quite slowly. I build the colour up by alternating transparent layers over opaque layers. One colour may almost get painted out and another arrives in order to bring interest to the work – its discovery as well as chance, within a structure – a system, if that makes sense!
Q: You have a wonderful use of colour – how do you select the colours you use?
I usually have an idea of the palette I want to explore. Sometimes it’s very restricted and at other times very open. Often I draw the palette for something that I have seen, or sometimes it’s an arrangement that I remember seeing. There is always an unknown in the development of the painting as it proceeds, a colour will naturally call for another colour to be present, so it needs to be added almost as if in a piece of music. There will be certain notes that are needed to complete a desired mood or a song. Colour changes as well – placing one colour next to another will invariably cause a change and this is something I love to explore: balance and tension between colours, or harmony and discord. I try to be intuitive not academic about these choices. Colour is very personal.
Q: Many of your works are as much about the surface and textures of painting as the forms represented – what draws you to this tactile focus?
I think when you work in the abstract, whether it is a colour field or a geometric composition, the surface is integral to the success of the whole. The substance itself (paint) fascinates me and the surface must in some way enhance the colour or the subject. Touch is relevant to surface – how we apply the paint it, has so much to do with the motivation or intention behind the act of painting.
Q: What inspirations are sparking ideas for you at the moment?
Well, inspiration is of course everywhere but lately I have been interested in the early panel paintings of the quattrocento, for example Fra Angelico. The use of the limited palette and the colours that were available to artists of that time is quite extraordinary. The combination of earth colours and available strong colours is extremely sophisticated. I am also very interested in the palette and work of Sonia Delaunay which is a much brighter more modern palette, we have access to so much “tubed” colour since the 1850’s which really saw a huge amount of new colours being invented for artists.
Q: Tell us about The Painting School…
I started my painting school in Annandale after studying with Charlie Sheard, a wonderful and inspiring teacher. I learned so much from him, it felt important to share that knowledge with others I learned about the nature of pigments and their uses historically, so layering the paint and understanding the optics of transparent and opaque pigments is very important to me in my process. I teach beginners and really anyone who is interested in furthering their practise. It’s not really academic though. By providing students with a toolbox of technical information, I really encourage students to find their own language and develop a sound practise which will enhance their process. I teach this year long course 2 days a week and paint in my studio the rest of the time.
Q: What projects are up next on the horizon?
I am making work for a show next year with Collab as well as sending work to Otomys in Melbourne and London.