Chameleon Contemporary Colour Artist Spotlight #2: Susan Banks

Susan Banks is a painter and former art lecturer, painting out of her studio in rural Lincolnshire. Her abstract re-workings of popular myths explore the symbolic and metaphoric attributes of art of the past. I interviewed Susan about her career as an artist, and her work “Evidence Four”, which will appear in Chameleon, Surface Gallery’s contemporary art Open this October.

Who are you, what is your background as an artist, and what are your mediums?

I am a painter and former art lecturer with a studio in rural Lincolnshire. I studied painting at Croydon College of Art and Hull School of Art [M.A. and M.Phil.]. My work includes abstract re-workings of popular myths, exploring the symbolic and metaphoric attributes of art of the past and has a recent focus on Roman wall paintings and Greek archaeological findings.

Tell us a little bit about the work you’ve submitted to the Chameleon Contemporary Colour Open. What does your work aim to say? What inspired you to create “Evidence Four”?

“Evidence Four” results from playing with “Intentional Illuminant Metameric Failure” i.e. areas of paint that seem the same colour but, having being mixed with different pigments and mediums, may appear different in other light conditions. The painting hovers in the hinterland between painting and drawing and the imagery is taken from the crumbling and unstable surfaces of roman wall paintings. I was interested in the way that their colours changed as the result of ageing and more extreme conditions such as experienced in Pompeii.

I am fascinated by the prevalent cinnabar red, a bright red and toxic mercury sulphide mineral pigment that has changed dramatically after exposure variously to time, heat and volcanic ash. The form of the painting suggest a liminal space between abstraction and figuration, the solid and the nebulous, presence and imagination with a hint of something apotropaic to ward against danger. It is part of an on-going series of paintings that followed a startling and stimulating encounter with Roman Painting in situ. The paintings abstract elements of the experience of that discovery and do not seek to copy the paintings or their original intentions.

I find that damaged surfaces become a type of alluring aesthetic form in its own right. The paintings are a quest for the indefinable frisson of visual pleasure in something not really understood and not entirely seen. Ironically and inevitably, this leads to the question of reliance on the artist’s intention because the art object undergoes environmental cultural and physical changes. I know my paintings are immediately subject to viewers’ interpretations and will appear different in different surroundings.

So, I submit Evidence Four to Chameleon. It is a red painting but I am uncertain how it will appear.

Favourite part of process?

Hard to say. Research is compulsive, planning is absorbing. Actually painting is hard work.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Painter, Researcher, Theorist, Feminist, Reader.

Susan Banks’ work “Evidence Four” will be on display in the Chameleon Contemporary Colour Open, running from the 5th October to the 19th October. Opening night is the 4th October 6pm-9pm at Surface Gallery. Free entry for all.

Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanBanks7