Birch Contemporary

Ben Walmsley: BURNT ORANGE NIGHT Process Colour Landscapes

We are pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Ben Walmsley.  BURNT ORANGE NIGHT is a collection of recent large-scale paintings that Walmsley calls “process colour landscapes”. These vibrant colour field paintings were created exclusively using  the standard primary or process colours of the printing industry: cyan, magenta and yellow, combined with white acrylic paint. The paint is applied in sprayed layers from a manual atomizer,  creating an all-over pointillist effect that allows the colours to vibrate in their juxtaposition. The titles of the paintings reference the artist’s abiding interest in commercial paint colour samples, disclosing the formula of his palette and suggesting a poetic correlation with a place, time, thing or sensation.  These are psychedelic paeans to light and colour, the sun and the prismatic sky. 

“For me, every new painting project is a deliberate challenge to expand my practice. I explore new techniques, break habits and change my subject matter, yet still maintain fidelity to my ongoing exploration and analysis of colour and perception in representational painting.  Often I establish parameters which contain the project but which also create an arena in which accidents can happen, to force me to learn new strategies to manage the outcome.  In this case, I decided to make not only the largest paintings I’ve ever exhibited, but also the first landscapes. I abandoned brushes in favour of manual spray bottles; I switched from oil to acrylic paint, and limited my palette to the process colours cyan, magenta, yellow and white. In many ways I feel that I am reinventing myself as an artist.

Part of this process of reinvention was to imagine and recreate who I was before I ever went to art school. I spent my formative years in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario. That is the place that resonates most for me, and that resonance is what I hope to convey in these sunset paintings, both through the subject matter and the directly evocative power of colour.

Special thanks for the contribution to the work by things I’ve loved over the years:  1970’s van art, music and album covers, industrial silkscreen printing, Pop art, graffiti, Japanese prints, Divisionism, Colour Field painting, Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art, chromesthesia, Pratt and Lambert paint samples, Salmon Point, and my friends and family.”

Ben Walmsley has been exhibiting professionally since 1983, and his work is included in numerous private, corporate and institutional collections.