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The Power of Green
Sarah Reynolds

 

Green is a colour that has been used by artists throughout history. It suggests many different meanings, such as nature, growth, renewal, and balance. Green can create a sense of calm and peace to an environment, whether it is through a painting or a small office plant. The link between green and nature may encourage the colour to have this calming affect. However, this may not always be the case when it comes to art. Although green can offer a sense of calm and peace, as there is a strong association with the colour to the natural world, sometimes the opposite affect may occur. It can also create an intensity which may become overpowering and dominating, to the point where it can take over certain artworks. This reverse effect of the associations of green and its representation, is quite intriguing, and is practiced by many artists, such as Cecilia Danell, Hurvin Anderson and David Hockney.  

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Fig.1 Cecilia Danell, The Wood Between the Worlds, 2022.

Cecilia Danell is a Swedish artist now based in Galway, whose practice is immersed with greenery as she explores her home environment. Her work is process-based, combining an extensive study of the landscape and the psychology of place. The artist has visited her family's farm in Sweden for the previous ten years to roam around, and collect ideas for future artworks. It is evident being present in nature and in the Swedish landscape, is a vital part of Danell’s artistic process.

 

To walk, observe and take in all her surroundings within a landscape known so personally to her, is an extremely interesting way to collect new material from a place so intimate and familiar. Regardless of returning to the same location, there is always a new spark of creation that the artist will find by emerging herself within this beautiful setting. Revealing, the powerful and limitless ability the natural environment has when stimulating inspiration and creativity. The physical act of painting in the studio, combined with this sense of being in the landscape, produces artworks that are independent of the original photographic material. 

Through exploring a place Danell is familiar with, she is constantly faced with new, changing aspects of the landscape, such as decaying elements, seasonal changes, and the evidence of human activity. These factors further challenge the idealistic and romantic idea of nature as untouched land. In addition to this, Danell celebrates and plays on the vast supply of colour that nature offers, that we might often overlook. Appreciating all the various tones and hues produced within a landscape, she does not limit her use of greenery in her paintings. However, she puts emphasis on colour, creating an unfamiliar world of intense and vivid tones. With this gathered information, Danell does not portray the typical landscape painting, but one that has an enchanted, mythical feel. This connects back to the power, and intensity, the various shades and vibrant hues that green offers, creating this unfamiliar and memorizing world.  

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Fig.2. David Hockney, Spring Cannot be Cancelled, 2020.

Known predominantly for his paintings of Californian landscapes and swimming pools, David Hockney’s vibrant use of colour has always played an important role in his paintings. Throughout Hockney’s career it is evident the vivid, and intense palette he uses, has become a distinguishable characteristic of his work. Hockney was born with synesthesia, a condition where he perceives colour as a cognitive response to hearing music. Therefore, this may explain the refreshing colour palette Hockney utilises in his artwork. Hockney’s location contributes greatly to the artwork he has created. Rarely staying in one place for very long, he is strongly identified with his setting and surroundings. ‘Spring Cannot Be Cancelled 2020’ is a series of iPad drawings created by Hockney when he was based in Normandy, France, during a time of imposed isolation - the first Covid19 lockdown. These iPad drawings reveal Hockney’s fascination with the world around him, as he dove into celebrating the French countryside as joyfully as ever, using intense and rich colours to depict the arrival of Spring. His unique style of expressive brushstrokes, featuring surrealist shapes, and the vibrant shades of greenery transform the French countryside into a reimaged world on canvas. Brimming with vibrant colours and lush plant life, Hockney created over two hundred paintings of Spring blooming in Normandy. The intense range of hues and tones depicting the arrival and progression of Spring is fascinating. It truly transforms one into another world that is immersed in greenery and wildlife. Hockney’s curiosity of looking further and further into what fascinates him throughout the decades reveals his determination to capture the beauty and tranquility of nature, through his unique vibrant colour palette.

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Fig.3. Hurvin Anderson, Grace Jones, 2020.

Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, Hurvin Anderson explores his ancestorial home and Jamaican heritage in his practice. Anderson’s paintings focus on his Jamaican roots, through representations of lush Caribbean landscapes, entangled into abstractions rich in cultural references. The artist sheds light on the reality of growing up in England while yearning to re-establish life in Jamaica. Anderson’s paintings depict the Caribbean’s lush and tropical greenery and the beauty that the landscape has to offer. However, the artist often overlays his paintings with decorative screens and abstract patterns, obstructing the landscape underneath. His technique alternates between loose, fluid brushstrokes and tighter, more structured areas, combining abstraction with figuration.  

Anderson works from photographs rather than memory, which strengthens the sense of distance that permeates his entire body of work. Anderson’s visual language reveals both the beauty and hardship the Caribbean encounters, portraying its immense natural beauty and its current economic difficulties. The artist’s saturated colour palette portrays the lush wildlife through vibrant hues of green and blue. This vibrancy is contrasted against the bleak grey buildings, creating a sense of uninhabited and overgrown land. Through his technique and unique colour palette, it is evident Anderson’s paintings that are immersed in nature, and based on being in one place and longing for another, creating a new reimaged landscape.  

 

Overall, it is evident all artists are heavily influenced by a saturated colour palette immersed in greenery. Through their own individual, unique style, each artist has celebrated the power and intensity green offers to the natural world within their paintings. Focusing on a colour which is often overlooked for its intensity and vibrancy transforms natural landscapes into a reimagined world, full of colour. Through celebrating these various tones and hues green produces within a landscape, we are forced to see nature differently. The strong emphasis placed on a colour we are surrounded by everyday creates a sense of an unfamiliar world, full of multiple distractions. Although all paintings are portrayed in a natural landscape, all locations are transformed into an idealistic world immersed in vivid colour and lush greenery. Creating an unfamiliar yet nostalgic feel as we are aware of the setting but overwhelmed with colour. It is evident from the work of Danell, Hockney and Anderson that green offers powerful and limitless possibilities. 

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