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  • Orla Stevens

Pattern & Rhythm

Thinking about the connections between rhythm & pattern, in relation to landscape, walking and my painting practice.

Welcome to the final entry of a four part series! I’m writing a short collection of notes, to capture my thoughts on the developments in my practice, broken into the four most important elements I've been focusing on this year: Mark Making, Colour, Play & Rhythm. I hope these posts are interesting to share creative ideas if you’re reading this as a fellow maker, or share some insight to the artistic process if you’ve never made anything before, but are curious to know what goes into a painting or object. If you've any thoughts in response to these posts, I'd love to hear them! Any suggestions of future post ideas that you'd like to know more about is always warmly welcomed.

Landscape & Movement

This year I’ve been paying closer attention to the influence of rhythm and pattern in my work. After creating such a large volume of work for my solo show back in September, an emerging theme this series was in capturing the movement of walking, and movement of the landscape. Specifically, tuning in to sounds and movements that are repetitive and reoccurring. When I’m out on a research trip, it inevitably involves walking; long distances or short ones, up mountains, along rivers or coasts. The walking I’ve realised is really important to the research and documentation process, because it gives me time to tune in to myself, my body, where I am and how it makes me feel. Walking helps me connect to my thoughts and the places I’m exploring, and it’s this repetitive almost comforting rhythm I like to feature in my work. They show up in my work as base layer textures, initial sketches, line mark motifs and more. Barbara Hepworth has been a great inspiration to my work; I love the way she translates the experience of moving through landscape to sculpture:

“Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fulnesses and concavities, through hollows and over peaks – feeling, touching, through mind and hand and eye”.

- Barbara Hepworth

'Heart-rate Walking up Hill'

Sound, Landscape & Rhythm

I love to paint water, especially the sea, and take a lot of information from the sounds it makes. From breaking waves to the foam popping on the sand, these sounds guide the movement of my hand when I’m working. It tells me to make a gentle or jagged mark, bold or delicate, fast or slow. The repetitive sounds from landscape tell me what quality the shapes, textures and marks I make should have. This all blends together to build the mood of each painting. This translation of the quality of sound to canvas has been a really important element in the development in my work over the last few years, and has been helping me to connect on a deeper personal level to the locations I explore.

'Let Loose' detail - Movement of sounds & landscape

Patterns in Repetition

I’ve been thinking of my work as a whole in recent months; instead of each piece as an individual work, seeing the bigger picture in how a whole collection tells a story, and what my consistencies are. There’s been a lot more reflection of my work this year, more than ever! Giving myself permission to have space and less pressure to produce large volumes, has allowed me to be much more considered in what I do, and why. I’ve needed this slower pace this winter to check in with my work, and reconnect to the why. The freezing temperatures we’ve been experiencing of late have also been slowing down my work pace in the studio! As a result, I’m feeling really proud of the things I’m creating. The work I’m making behind the scenes feels much more true to me, and each piece is helping to develop my voice as an artist. I’m really excited to share these pieces with you in the near future. Thinking of my work as a whole, has helped me use repeating motifs, textures, marks and shapes through each piece. Repetition was something I always felt barred from, as though reusing ideas was a negative. Instead, I now see this repetition as a positive, as a sign of strength and confidence. In this way, I’ve been building on the patterns of making I use to create bodies of work. I hope that as a collection, these works benefit being guided by the reoccurring rhythms and relationships.

Tools in process

What does pattern or rhythm offer?

I’ve been keen to develop this layer of pattern and rhythm in my work, because I’ve been finding it to help with the overall balance and composition of a piece. It’s like the internal structure that lets the colour hang right, or guides the pace at which your eye navigates the painting. Just like in music, the rhythm plays such a massive part in establishing the mood of the track. The rhythm of the work is like the heart of the painting, which helps guide the energy and emotion you feel from viewing. Using pattern and rhythm with awareness has been helping me make more conscious decisions when painting. I’ve been hopping between these two modes of making - thinking through making or flow, and designing the piece consciously through learnt experience and visual language. This back and forth has been taking more mental energy, which is probably another reason why I’m working much slower, until I settle in with this new method. The extra time has been yielding more thoughtful and deliberate results, and I think is really helping my work grow into a new chapter.

Detail of 'Cairn'

Quick work-in-progress thought:

I’ve been thinking also about the pattern of process, in building a painting. How it’s structured, planned, composed and refined, and the layers that go into it. I’m experimenting with the stages and order of making a piece, and exploring through trial and error if having a pattern in method helps to build consistency across the process, and boosts creativity, or if it in fact restricts it. There are pros and cons to both sides, which I'm enjoying exploring. Watch this space.

Inspirational Artists & Designers

I'll leave you with a list of painters and textile designers that have been inspiring me within my work, developing my understanding of rhythm and pattern in painting. They forever inspire me for many reasons, so if you don't know their work already, you're in for a treat!

Barbara Hepworth Quote Link:

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