MAstars 2011: Nicola Perren, MA Fine Art

MAstars 2011: Nicola Perren, MA Fine Art Nicola Perren, Primary Oil, 2011. Painting. 73.6cm x 79.5cm x 4.5cm. Credit: Nicola Perren

Sarah Brown selects Nicola Perren from Sheffield Hallam University for MAstars

Working with paint

Painting has gone through many shifts over the centuries and the only obvious similarity is that all painting involves some type of pigment on a surface. And even that may vary. So how can one determine the essence of painting as an artform? How can one define and evaluate it? Is it the artist's depiction of their soul on a canvas that creates the masterpiece? Is it technical skill and classical style or just common earthly beauty depicted through the artist's vision?

Nicola Perren's work is about paint. About making paint, paintings and the craftsmanship of painting itself. Her paintings and drawings have a visceral energy that suggest the process by which they have been made and the raw pigments from which the medium orginates. Her interest in the ability to control how paint behaves - its viscosity, weight and density is a significant concern and this is reflected in the strength of her finished work.

Perren's work has a unity of style and mood which reflects her personality and displays the alchemic possibilities of her chosen medium. The form and content of her paintings appear to relate directly to her research into the processes involved in making paint rather than the communication of a concept or narrative. The different colours have their own characteristics with yellow and magenta requiring less binding medium than white resulting in paint that Perren notes is 'amazingly silky, velvet in look, touch and even sound'.

It is interesting to consider the status of painting at this moment in time and to explore how an artist practising in the present negotiates working in a medium with such a weighty history. Perren's work reminds us that painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, colour or other medium to a surface; she reminds us that painting is a mode of expression and that its forms are numerous. While certain themes in painting remain constant, the factors that determine its aesthetic impact and validity change over time. Determining what makes a painting successful has always been, and will remain, a difficult task. Perren's work makes a bold and brave contribution to this ongoing debate, but also reveals the more intimate and intricate craftsmanship of this most ancient of art-making processes.

Selected by Sarah Brown
Published July, 2011

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