Gray Jordan is a Norfolk based painter working with Gray-made pigments from foraged materials in the very landscapes she captures on paper and canvas. Through her paintings Gray explores the wild reality (and serenities) of the landscapes – discovering the interwoven relationships of ‘place’ and all life in the environment.
“I find that themes of narrative, perception and identity are still central to my work, but I now explore how that identity functions within the concept of family, community and, particularly, place. I am drawn to explore how modern consumerist society substitutes narratives acquired through purchases for those derived from experience of place, relationships and connections with the natural world. I use foraged natural pigments and reclaimed surface as a way to further embed these questions within my painting and sculptural work.”
Much like an experienced Mycologist scouring the landscape for the right mushrooms – foraging for pigments has many similarities. Understanding the environment in both the long and short term is essential. Where and how flora and fauna move, grow and interact through the landscape plus the geology and landforms that ‘set the scene’.
Roots. Rocks. Flowers. Barks. Leaves. Dung. Clays. Muds. Fruits.
Just some of the amazing pigments Gray paints with include: red ochre from Hunstanton, yellow ochre and clay and chalk from Runton combined with ink from the plants woad and black walnut. As well as pigments from her native Colorado.
Once Gray has foraged and gathered her materials, she then must prepare the pigments for painting.
Once powdered (generally in a pestle and mortar), Gray then adds high starch content water until the colour and consistency is suitable for the paper or canvas she’s painting on.
Starchy water is created by boiling down potatoes! This binds the pigments to the water creating a natural colloid.
The process may seem intuitive, and perhaps that’s because our forefathers used the very same methods to capture the tales, fables and landscapes of their day. Some of the very earliest cave paintings used similar pigment preparation methods.
Whilst the lines and shapes in Gray’s work are abstract and free flowing, time and again her pieces draw in onlookers creating a real sense of the environment.
From free flowing motifs where pigments have been allowed the space to run, to intricate finger painted detail — each dramatic piece creates its own unique narrative oozing with cues from the very same landscape that provided the pigments to create it.