Virginia Verran

Virginia Verran was born in 1961 in Falmouth, and studied at Winchester School of Art (BA) 1980-83 and the Chelsea School Of Art (MA) 1983-84, and was also a Jerwood Drawing Prize winner in 2010.Verran is currently an Associate Lecturer at University of the Arts (Chelsea, London); Falmouth University (Cornwall) and also teaches at Slade School of Art (London). Verran is a visual artist using a range of media including painting and drawing, her work is often peppered with recurring motifs and graphic signs and symbols. Verran interrogates our existence through exploring levels of being, and identifying and exposing threats to our existence both from outside our bodies and within. In an interview with Ruth Wilbur, Verran described how these visual cues, “suggestion of flags, propellers, bombs, tracer-fire, meteorites, bacteria and cells in my work, play a roll as signifiers of that perceived threat but they also act as a formal device, motifs that sit on the surface of the space, playful and percussive.”

I’d recently become aware that although the module I’m studying at the moment with the Open College of Arts is ‘Understanding Painting Media’ I have neglected to explore water colours, in previous exercises I found it difficult to use this medium so thought I had ought to return to it. Actually it was a perfect medium to use to explore this idea of hidden threats – I wanted to focus on the inner bodily threats of bacteria and organisms, as opposed to external threats of war and conflict. I decided to use a similar palette to Verran with pinks and blues, and created the first layer below by paining quite heavily with water and then dropping the water colour pigment to the surface. It was really quite mesmerising to watch how the pigment interacted with the water, and I think it was very successful in creating these imagined micro organisms. It reminds me of when a word sounds like the word – onomatopoeia, in this instance the paint appears naturally like the object I’m trying to depict – is there a word in the painting world to describe visual onomatopoeia?

To build upon the layers as Verran does I used conte crayons playfully over the surface with swirling motions. I then researched a little into the shapes of bacteria and created the little blue rectangular bacteria using blue pen. Looking back to Verran’s work she uses an array of fine line marking so I added in some additional lines as well as some black dashed lines which journey across the page, which could perhaps signify some smaller bacteria travelling across the petrie dish and mingling with all of the other little micro organisms.

I’m really pleased with the overall outcome of this response. I really enjoyed using the watercolours in quite an abstract way and then incorporating other materials to create this mixed media response.

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