Hidden Loneliness in Cities – Colour Exploration – Artists That Have Explored Urban Loneliness Through Brighter Colours

After producing quite a successful and substantial body of work focusing on the use of monochrome colouring and sepia tones, I have decided to investigate whether these colours are affecting the loneliness of my work. After producing my green shaped underpainting, I started thinking about the fact that the figures didn’t appear to look as lonely as in my darker works and so I would like to clarify this by briefly investigating and producing some brighter works and analysing their success in showing the hidden loneliness of city life.

To start, I thought it would be beneficial to investigate whether existing artists have attempted to show loneliness in cities through bright colours. I have come across a few, but I do not feel that the figures within them feel as lonely, because darker colours create a negative atmosphere and bright colours a positive one, so the figure seems to look like they are just happily walking through a colourful city even though they are alone, rather than feeling down and depressed by the fact that they are.

Leonid Afremov – “Alone in the City”

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I am really drawn to the technique adopted by Leonid Afremov, however, in terms of portraying loneliness, I just feel that the figure looks as if they are walking back from somewhere by themselves. In my work, I am investigating portraying loneliness in the city where there is others around you. It is horrible to think that there are so many people but you interact with no one which heightens how lonely you feel in my opinion. This is a beautiful painting but I am not sure it portrays the same message as my work or is successful in showing loneliness in the city, partly because of the bright more positive colours and partly because there are no other people for the figure to feel lonely around or feel like they don’t exist to.

Miki De Goodeboom – “Lonely in the Big City”

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I think the abstract nature of Miki De Goodeboom’s piece is highly successful, even though there is no city like imagery behind the figure, because of the square and geometric shapes our brain seems to associate them with one. Here, I do feel that the figure looks lonely, I think it is because of the chaotic looking city and the figure seems to look overwhelmed being alone within this chaos. Also, the colours here are not as bright as in Afremov’s work.

Casoni Ibolya – “The Rainbow City after Rain Alone”

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I like the softness of the work here, Even though the colours are not as vibrant as the other two artists I have looked at, the artist has still used brighter colouring to portray inner city loneliness. Again, here I feel that the figure does look lonely. I think this is to do with the fact that the world around them is colourful and they are painted in blacks and greys. The work makes me feel as if the figure feels alone and as if they don’t belong in this environment.

After exploring how existing artists have portrayed loneliness in cities through the use of brighter colours, I am going to investigate it myself, I will produce some coloured works and experiment with the idea of there being lots of people around you but no interaction, just as I have in my darker works. I will then analyse the success of this and decided whether it is more affective to paint Urban Loneliness in bright or darker colours and continue to work with whatever the verdict is.

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Artist relevant to my work: ELLEN ALTFEST

ELLEN ALTFEST – American Artist (Born 1970)

“With exquisite attention to the minutest details, Ellen Altfest produces naturalistic paintings that transform humble or intimate subjects—like houseplants, gourds, rotting items or a man’s underarm—into evocative, psychologically loaded objects that almost exceed realism”.  American artist Ellen Altfest exploits the full potential of green in many of her paintings, as you can see in this nuanced image, here to create the image of moulding or decay.

Ellen Altfest

When I first saw these two pieces, I thought they were paintings but they are infact woodblock prints. She has managed to make them look so textural without them actually being textural. The works accurately captures the decay of the object but are also beautiful pieces. This is a challenging element to achieve.

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Green Gourd, 2007 – 18 colour woodblock print on Japan MM7 Kozo paper

 Ellen’s work inspires me to think about textures when creating works to do with mould and decay and to think about how varied the colour palette of mould actually is. In my opinion, Ellen Altfest’s moulding food paintings are beautiful. They capture exactly what most of us take for granted and make something normally considered repulsive have a sense of beauty and therefore she is highly relevant to my project on decay.