Portalis Collaborator Interview – Anna A. Curston

What influences did you draw on for this project?

The concept of caves was an interesting starting point for me and, combined with my love of our vast, mysterious universe, led to the idea of expressing the formation of the moon through my other love: paint. Secrets of our past are not only hidden within the caves themselves, but inside the very rocks they are made of. A tale of rocks on a planetary scale, it was a major and violent point in Earth’s history and an event that allowed life as we know it today to form and flourish.

What processes did you use in your work?

My process is one of research and reimagining. A foundation of research leads onto the creation of compositional sketches and accompanying key words. The composition is more of a starting suggestion than an actual roadmap though, and the colours and marks are built up in layers until it essentially disappears. Once paint is introduced, I rely on my understanding of the subject to mentally guide me through the unpredictable world of paint. All canvases are primed in black gesso; thus, all paintings begin with a blank black canvas – much like the night sky before our eyes adjust to the light.

an abstract painting in black, white and red

Did you try new approaches for this exhibition that led to new discoveries?

An error in an experiment led to a new exploration of material. Up until now, I had solely used acrylic paint for large abstract works, but in an experiment intended to exploit the repelling properties of water and oil, I found myself with apparently immoveable oil on the surface of the canvas. Water based paint could no longer be applied on the surface. I knew the only hope I had to complete the painting on time, was to simply have fun exploring the oil paints in the context of the half-finished painting and hope for the best.

What feelings or meanings do you imagine your work conveys?

My aim is to inspire a feeling of awe in my audience, to provoke a sense of wonder and perspective. It would be wonderful too, to inspire an interest in astronomy, showing one of many ways to engage with the subject. I do however hope that each person’s experience of the work is completely their own, influenced first and foremost by their own world view and life experiences. The artist’s intentions are only truly important in the creation process; art is a purely personal experience after all.

Anna painting on a black and white canvas

What are you hoping to convey in the title of your work?

The title of the painting – Giant Impact Hypothesis – does what it says on the tin; it is the name of the theory it depicts. The title points anyone curious enough to search for it, in the direction of astronomy and science, and is the inspiration of the painting. For those perhaps more comfortable in the world of science than art, it can act as a foothold in an unfamiliar world.

How does your work for Portalis relate to your past work?

The work for Portalis is a continuation of my past work and still sits within the genre of Space Art. Thanks to the prompt of caves however, the painting depicts a scene far closer to home than I am typically drawn to. It is also a stand-alone painting rather than part of a larger series like it would normally be. The materials I used were a slight expansion on my usual set, but it is still a work of paint created with my style of geometric shapes paired with gestural marks.

Will this project influence some aspect of your future practice? If so, what and how?

Since focusing in on my love of space and beginning to refer to myself exclusively as a ‘space artist’, I had only created work on square surfaces. The impromptu decision to create Giant Impact Hypothesis in landscape format has inspired me to further explore different shapes of surface in the future, taking into consideration the ways the shape of a surface can help tell the story of a work.

an abstract red and black painting

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