Friday, April 10, 2015

An Alien in the Backyard

“I want the brush marks to remain really dominant.”
Mimei Thompson

For the London based painter Mimei Thompson the painting process is as an important a visual aspect of her work as the subject depicted. As she told John Jones London “I am interested that the works prominently display signs of their making, and reflect a position of self-awareness. The works are both process based, and representational, figurative and abstract.”

Thompson started her artistic career studying photography at the Glasgow School of Art. But, within a couple of years of getting her BA in Fine Art Photography Thompson had replaced the camera with the paint brush although the influence of her early training is evident in her work. As she explained to The Double Negative “It’s there in the way I think about making work. The translucency of the paint creates a luminosity where the whiteness of the surface can glow through. This connects, for me, to the experience of making photographs using light, from the negative film, and also to viewing images on screens.”

Using specifically prepared non absorbent canvases Thompson works on her paintings over time emphasizing her brush strokes to give the works a contrast between spontaneity and a studied detail. As she told Articulated Artists’ Alli SharmaI’m interested in the natural shape brush marks take, as if they might have grown…My marks are then emphasized because I give them highlights and shadows, so the marks themselves, as well as being traces, might exist as objects within a represented space…I work on it in one go and then go back, so there is one layer of working which is really fast and then I go back to it over a couple of months, working in a detailed way…I want that fresh feeling, but then you can also see that it’s been worked into. So there is a contrast between something spontaneous and something studied and detailed. I like that contrast.”

Apart from her surreal caves series Thompson selects the everyday of her backyard for her subject matter, from the weeds growing in the path to her studio to the insects they attract. “I have a huge interest in insects,” she says. ”They’re easily overlooked, or looked at with disgust, but on the other hand, they’re incredible. One of my main fascinations with insects is their use of metamorphosis. I was thinking about the cocoon as being like a cave, a place of transformation. With some insect metamorphoses, the larva will liquefy within the cocoon, and reform from this liquid into the adult, and I think about this in relation to painting; there is potential in the substance of paint to become anything. So, in the works, there is this shifting, transformative matter that can morph into different forms and blur the boundaries between animal, vegetable and mineral.”

And this blurring of boundaries comes naturally to Thompson. With a Chilean mother and a Texan father, born in Japan, Thompson grew up in The Sudan before settling in London, an experience that has given Thompson a particular world view. As she has said “This diverse range of cultural influences gave me a desire for, and an ambivalence towards, ideas of authenticity, grounded-ness, national identity and belonging, which I explore through my work.”

Thompson’s current exhibition The Year of Sleepwalking is on show at London’s Art First Projects until the 1st of May.

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