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© Ptolemy Mann at work

Ptolemy Mann exploring colour

The dictionary definition of colour is: the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light. That sounds somewhat mundane when you see the extraordinary, exhilarating colours that make up Ptolemy Mann’s paintings. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was intrigued when her eye was first caught by the artists’s Instagram posts.

Colour is definitely her thing. Strong, vibrant colours that one would think, for those who don’t know or understand colour theory, shouldn’t work together. Yet, they do. In spades.  I have to say I have not yet seen the paintings in reality, only examples of her work on her website and on Instagram, so it is impossible to respond viscerally to them, which I am sure I will when I see the exhibition.

There is a different effect seeing paintings around a room, however, even in photographs, they seem joyful and full of energy, however, I feel with her colour knowledge in a different mood they could easily turn to the dark side. There is a definite energy, excitement, sense of danger in her abstract work – shadows, jaggedness, sprays of light, introspective, looking outwards and beyond.

One thing Mann knows inside out, backwards, forwards and upside down, is colour. She studied at St Martin’s College of Art where once a week for a year she studied colour theory under the guidance of colour guru Garth Lewis, a renowned colour theorist who also, coincidentally, lives in Hastings. On a very rudimentary level the theory is based on the colour wheel which shows the relationship between primary, secondary and tertiary which points up complementary colours from red, through green, cyan, through azure, violet, magenta and red.

Mann started her career in 1997 with textiles, introducing an original way  of working by using her signature hand-dyed and woven technique in architectural and chromatic wall-based artworks for private, public and corporate clients. She has been commissioned by the Tate after a thought-provoking exhibiton of  textile artist’s  Annie Albers’ work. She  has also been a consultant to the NHS producing colour painted exteriors and interiors for the NHS to reduce threshold anxiety in children’s hospitals.

Whether wall hangings or rugs, becuase of her dying and weaving techniques she thought of them as paintings, so no surprise when she turned to painting about five years ago.

Her inspiration is colour and response to space. Her work could be described as meditative, ‘being in the moment’ paintings. Certainly energy art.

Electro Studios is fast becoming the go-to gallery for innovative work and that is where Mann now has an exhibition. But first she has been lucky enough to have had a residency in the building – working in a studio with three-metre high ceilings she has literally been able to stretch her creative and physical muscles to produce large works.

She acknowledges she is a messy artist, not an American Expressionist but she had to cover the floor with dust sheets to protect the floor from the acrylic, acrylic wash and liquid water colour that she uses. However it might have been interesting to have left traces of her colour palette behind on the floor.

Ptolemy Mann has been in Hastings for only six months and is looking for a large studio, so being offered the Electro space she certainly felt feted. The results can be seen at Electro Studios, Seaside Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0AL next weekend, opening Friday 15 July, 6–9pm, and Saturday 16 and Sunday 17, 12–6pm.

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Posted 13:51 Friday, Jul 15, 2022 In: Visual Arts

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