Natural forms and the exploration of the relationship between light and darkness are the main characteristics of British artist Sue Arrowsmith's artworks. Using acrylic or watercolour she creates mesmerising marks that cross the surface of her paintings, these twist and intertwine, creating energetic compositions.
During her education at Goldsmiths College, Arrowsmith developed her minimalistic approach with a reduced colour palette. Even though her degree specialised in the use of textiles as a medium of fine arts, Arrowsmith has never limited her practice. At her graduation exhibition in 1990, she displayed a standing, mainly black monochrome installation with hanging white strings. Today, Arrowsmith still only uses neutrals, whites, greys and blacks and adds to her palette with gloss, matt and iridescent paints
At the heart of Sue Arrowsmith's practice lies a deep interest in artistic materials and techniques. She paints on a variety of materials such as paper, canvas and wooden and aluminium panels. Canvas offers absorption and grain due to its woven structure, paper allows the watercolour to pool and seep whereas the smooth surface of the aluminium does not show any texture. It is the ability of the artist to adapt her painting technique to each of these surfaces that creates the particular aesthetics and sense of materiality in her work.
Arrowsmith finds her inspiration in the natural landscape during her frequent walks in the British countryside. She begins by looking at the trees and plants and captures these compositions on 35mm colour slide film and often takes three or four films to achieve an image she likes. The results are projected onto her studio wall or table as a reference for her paintings, so Arrowsmith is no longer looking at the original natural elements, but at a flattened, two dimensional reproduction. This represents the first step to abstraction. The artist then paints onto the prepared panel or paper and creates an abstract and monochrome interpretation of the original composition.
A striking element of Arrowsmith's work is the way she uses the liquidity of watercolour or acrylic paint to make her pieces. By embracing the organic way that paint flows and spreads, she does not simply depict her surroundings but reflects their natural essence as well. These images hoover between Abstraction and Figuration, the artist enjoying courting the two sides of the coin and playing on the rhythms she seems to instinctively find, in the foliage and the tree canopies around her.
Arrowsmith's instinctive approach to painting provides a new outlook on our surroundings and an encounter with her work leaves the viewer fascinated with its materiality. Through the artist's hand her landscapes are timeless and express a contradictory feeling of movement and stillness at the same time. The painted lines seem to come alive and one can almost hear their whispers.
Polina Chizhova 2016