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Ellipsis Series

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Ellipsis is a body of small silhouette paintings responding to the war in Ukraine. The series is conceived as an act of lament for events which I found myself deeply emotionally involved in and affected by. When the full scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, I felt unable to continue making the work that I had been making. The war jerked something out of me, but I didn't know how to respond. Several months later, I turned to news photographs of the conflict and began tracing and simplifying them to the point where they were often just pieces of jagged horizon, or the outlines of figures. Images full of detail and pathos became shrouded and ambiguous. Tracing round the stencils, I made a series of small silhouette paintings, some in acrylic on board and others in acrylic or rabbit skin glue on unprimed canvas. Some of them used unusual materials as pigments, such as aluminium oxide abrasive powder, tea leaves, pollen and metal powders. Some had threads and embroidered elements added.

I have titled the series Ellipses, because I saw the war as a rupture, absence or discontinuity, like something had dropped out of the world. There was a sense of disbelief, as of something out of its correct place in time, when the war started. War suspends and there is something unsayable about war. At the same time, war is exhaustively documented, in grainy drone footage and pin-sharp images by professional war photographers. Endless images and endless overwhelming detail. When it comes to actually mourning war, and not just documenting it, you come to what can't be said or shown. I wanted the series to be about the sadness I felt.

An ellipsis marks something that's missing, or a trailing off, or something that is understood but not necessary to say. In mourning, a lot is left understood but not said. There is an enormity that even the sheer mass of photographs and videos cannot begin to grapple with and the only way that I can think of to approach it is to say less rather than more, to focus on the feeling and the absence. A kind of unsaying or trailing off of speech. An ellipsis has an end and a hope - there is more beyond the absence.

Several paintings from the series were exhibited at Nomas* Projects, Dundee, in November 2023 in an exhibition titled Ellipsis: a lament for Ukraine.

See also my blog post Ellipsis: a lament for Ukraine.

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