The language of paint is the language of colour. This is a universal language.
I started to make my own paint whilst on Foundation at Chelsea, but in 1989, I began to share this ethos at the Slade School of Fine Art. I was constantly asking the question ‘is colour a language?’ So, if it is a language, it must be teachable.
My students were really struggling with colour. In the early days, it was just semi-theory and little swatches of colour, but in 1998, I finally made a large portable Colour Box as a teaching tool. This was a colour alphabet and it eventually developed into a Colour Grammar.
I wanted to make my practice and my pedagogy one. To teach with integrity and authority, I needed to make this Colour Grammar as a series of paintings. This took me five years to complete.
For the artist, colour is an actual substance. Working with paint / colour is an embodied physical experience. I had become frustrated with manufactured paint and I made the radical decision to make all my own paints. I was on a quest to embrace the full synaesthetic colour experience. At the same time, I began to take control of what I wanted from the paint. By making the paint for each colour, I became affected by associations, emotions, and other sensibilities, even personalities. To say that it changed my life as a painter would be an understatement. I saw each pigment as a complex personality, constantly changing its behaviour, depending on its context. I had a similar epiphany when making stained glass. Both these experiences involved physical colour communicating directly to both my body and soul.
By 2005, I had finished my 44 paintings that represented a Grammar of Colour. This intense synaesthetic experience led me to feel that colour could have archetypal forms. I then went on to create these archetypal forms into 22 sculptures, red to violet.
Everything I’ve made since 1998 has been part of this quest to help my students become literate in colour. Since then, I have deepened my own investigation of each of the major colour families and colour contrasts: red, orange, yellow, and the three main contrasts of a warm / cold contrast; a light / dark contrast; and an equal saturation. I am now working on green. This is 24 years of work and I’m really looking forward to tackling blue and violet.