‘My preoccupation as an artist is with colour, with surfaces as well as underlying structures, in other words with the macro and the micro found in any context. In recent work, I have found inspiration in effects of weathering in the built environment, particularly in Italy and other parts of Europe. Using oil paint and a sand ground on either linen or paper, I explore the underlying patterns generated by weathering.’
Rhonda Whitehead is an artist who knows how to marry a feeling for place with the formal freedoms uncovered by American Abstract Expressionism. In the course of much travelling her eye has repeatedly been caught by corroded or distressed surfaces, mostly caused by weathering. Occasionally she takes photographs to record this information but then plays with it, allowing the zoom lens to create spatial ambiguity, so that it remains uncertain whether we are looking at a detail or an entire view.
Using layering, she is able in her paintings to follow Matisse’s advice to seek for ‘equivalents’ to nature. In this way, she creates a pictorial space in which sensations can be conveyed, which are both visual and emotional. This is only achieved after a long process of subtle readjustment of both mark and colour, in relation to each other, in order to arrive at what Matisse called ‘that state of condensations that makes a painting’.
Her fascination with surface loss, imperfections and erosion on man-made surfaces suggests an underlying philosophy. Her beautifully observed surfaces have reminded the art critic Annie Forbes of ‘the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi association, which emphasises the sublimity to be found in imperfection’. The writer and curator John Grande suggests: ‘It is as if she is capturing the mind that exists in all matter.’
Clare Hall Art Committee Chairperson