Why is colour a feature of my work?

Colour is perhaps one of the main reasons I love living in Dundee. 

The sky here throws out so many magical colours, all swirling together in a kaleidoscope of dramatic hues of orange, turquoise and purple as the sun slowly dissolves into the night. It’s almost like theatre, especially compared to the sky I had grown used to in London, which is murky orange at best as a result of the light pollution that comes with living in a densely populated, 24/7 city.

I began experimenting with colour way back in primary school. When asked to draw pictures of myself, I learned quite quickly that Crayola’s ‘skin colour’ was nowhere near my own skin tone. It was probably the first time I noticed I was a different colour to everyone else. Being mixed race, the brown in a standard pack of pencils was too dark. It was then that I started layering multiple colours, as an attempt to create something that looked more like me. 

Eventually, I became frustrated with this. And by the time I sat my Art GCSE, I was painting people with blue, green and orange faces. I was almost creating my own race of colourful people, where shades of brown weren’t as important as what you could say with icy blues, or fiery reds. 

My undergraduate exhibition (2009) featured looming portraits of people using a palette of muted blues, greens and purples. There were no ‘skin colours’ in sight and for these huge paintings, I abandoned cotton canvas. Instead painting my figures on dark and rich shades of velvet.

Slowly, over the years, my established palette of Prussian Blue/Sap Green/Crimson/Black/White became punctured with experimental purchases of new colours by Michael Harding and Old Holland. It was only when I was stood in the middle of my Master’s exhibition (2015) that I realised colour had perhaps taken over.

The Graduate, 2009

Studio photo, University of Westminster, 2008

Graduate Show at P3, Baker Street, London, 2009

Masters Show at University of Dundee, 2015

Masters Show at University of Dundee, 2015 (Photo by Kathryn Rattray)

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