Geraldine Swayne

Geraldine Swayne was born in 1965, and is a British Artist. Swayne attended Newcastle Upon Tyne University where she gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 1989, and later went on to gain a MA in Fine Art at Kingston University in 2013. Swayne enjoys using a wide variety of materials and methods in her production of art, including large scale paintings on canvas, smaller paintings using enamel paint on metal, as well as performance art and film making. For the purpose of this blog post I will be looking more closely at Swayne’s work using enamel paint on Aluminium.

Geraldine Swayne, ‘Nazi Compact’, Enamel Paints on Aluminium

Swayne paints in a loose sweeping style, creating a final image that has movement and energy. Looking at the image I was thinking about how I could create a response. I first searched online for ‘woman applying lipstick’ but I didn’t particularly like this gender role stereotype. So I thought more about applying makeup in general, which led me to clowns applying their own stage makeup, and then stumbled across the below striking image. I like how Joaquin is looking away from the viewer at a fixed point, much like ‘Nazi compact’, and I think it could make for quite an interesting painting.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker, 2019

This time I decided to use oil paints even though I admit I was reluctant to start using oil paint. I don’t particularly enjoy long drying times that come with using watercolour and thought using oil paint would be much the same although this is exactly what makes a monotype possible. As I hadn’t used oil paints before I was also unsure around using them safely and looking after my brushes but I think actually this was fine. I used turpentine to thin the oil paints slightly when working with them and to clean the brushes.

Swayne uses enamel on aluminium in her depiction of ‘Nazi compact’ but without access to enamel and aluminium I decided to try and use the monotype technique to capture the image of Joaquin phoenix with the intention of painting over the top to add in any detail, although still trying to keep the same loose style of painting. My first attempt at a monotype (Kim Edwards) was a complete fail as I thought I could work very quickly and still use acrylic paint to produce the image but it just didn’t work, although I was still pleased with the resulting image, I wanted to practice this technique some more.

It took me a couple of attempts painting on the acetate over the image with oil paints and then printing on paper, I think I actually repeated this process around five times, I’m not sure what was going wrong. I don’t know if I just didn’t apply the oil paint thick enough or whether the oil paint I was using is maybe not of good quality as it was given to me by a friend and had been opened at some point previously. Either way despite the multiple attempts I did start building an image I was becoming happier with. I then added some oils over the top, a little thinned down with turpentine and added in some more detail, although still trying to keep the image loose and suggestive rather than trying to replicate the photograph completely.

I very annoyingly though created an error in the painting. As the monotype style creates a mirror image I became confused with how each hand was presented. The thumb on the right hand in the photograph is pointing downwards but in my confusion I thought I had missed this in the monotype process so painted it in afterwards – I hadn’t missed it I just got the two hands confused! So now in my final image both thumbs are pointing up! Without seeing the photograph though you wouldn’t necessarily realise, it’s just annoying as the painter I know the error is there.

I do really like the overall image itself though, the thick and painterly style of the oil painting is very remnant of the thick face paint Joaquin applied to face in his role as the Joker. The Joker film itself is quite gritty and hard hitting, and I can see this in the painting so I think it was a good fit for this response. In the same style as Swayne it would have been good to use a reflective surface to paint on as she used aluminium but unfortunately I haven’t been able to obtain any metallic card at this time. I would like to come back to this later when I am able to though, and compare resulting images.

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