ARTIST-A-DAY-BLOG: Inside A Generous Kingdom V & the Complex Visual Tapestries of artist Maggy Aston
"I’ve always been drawn to images of murkiness, of clouds and fog banks, smoke, forms emerging from shadows or disappearing
into grounds of pigment."
Does the idea of transformation influence your work and process?
For a long time I’ve been interested in the idea of substances moving between states of matter, dissolving and forming, becoming liquid or solid, and trying to convey these impressions with paint or ink. I’ve always been drawn to images of murkiness, of clouds and fog banks, smoke, forms emerging from shadows or disappearing into grounds of pigment. That’s what comes closest to my vision of the world as a place that’s neither black nor white, but more of a hazy, fragile middle-ground where nothing is stable. I think a lot about the disappearance of nature, of plants and animals on the verge of extinction, and how to express this in images with various materials. The particulate nature of things, tiny particles accumulating as forms or pools of pigment, and then dispersing into atmospheres---this is something I keep trying to express in my work. As I layer more and more details and images on my collages, they become harder to look at. The solid forms begin to atomize into fields of colored texture. I keep moving towards a feeling of floating through particles like rain or snow, or chemicals—you’re not sure what it is. I don’t think I’m making the images more beautiful by layering more elements, but I’m transforming them from something ordinary, like a scrap of paper or picture from a book, into something that’s more difficult to see or understand. Maybe the idea comes from Bosch. If you look closely at the details in some of his paintings, in the Garden of Earthly Delights, for example, you find these strange white dots that seem to cover everything, like spots of mold or decay, as if the world of his painting is breaking down to its particulate nature, and going back into the earth and air. Yet at the same time the dots look like jewels or ice crystals in sunlight.
What draws you to the medium you chose? And tell us a little about your process
I like working with different mediums all at the same time. I have lots of works in progress around the studio, and I work on some of them for years. Others get chopped up and glued down as collage elements that are eventually painted or printed over. What I like about mixed media and collage is that you can add anything to it, and you can start out small and keep expanding. Then if you don’t like what you’ve done you can rip it off, sand it down, or paste something over it. When I started gluing my drawings and prints onto boards this opened up my working process in the studio, and I moved into mixed media where anything goes. I also like to paint outside from nature in watercolor or oils. These paintings tend to be smaller for practical reasons. I work outdoors on smaller studies just for the fun of it, observing forms and colors from nature, not really trying to make art.
Then I bring the studies back to the studio and they hang around for a few years and eventually I start putting images on top of them, and piecing them together as larger works on paper. I studied printmaking in grad school so I have drawers full of prints that I cut up and use as collage elements. As my husband is an antiquarian bookseller, I have access to an amazing collection of natural science books that I reproduce with archival inks and paper when I need specific images of plants and animals. I also use fabrics, postcards, wallpapers, and digital photographs in the mixed media works. For me, the most interesting aspect of collage is the unexpected associations you can make when elements combine by accident. This is the fun part. I like tossing things together to see what happens. I take a lot of photographs of random combinations before I actually glue stuff down. First I create a ground of elements that works as an atmosphere, and then I begin to compose by pulling elements to the surface or allowing them to sink. Most of my pictures are never
Who inspires you? And What do you do to get inspired?
Nature inspires me---all its forms, colors, textures and atmospheres. All I have to do is step out the door into my garden and I find a hundred things I want to draw or paint or photograph. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. There’s so much one would like to express about the beauties of the world, and so little time in the space of one artist’s life.