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Camilla Howalt

Camilla uses a narrow range of colours, both in individual works and across the range of her works. Reds predominate: dark reds, purple reds, the red of dried blood and the red that fades into rose in the sunlight. She also uses greys and yellows, like mortar, like concrete and like sandstone. These are the colours of the earth, of the desert, and of baked soil. These are the colours of bricks and other building materials.

Each work contains variation of colour - depth, shade and intensity - but these variations are subtle. The colour is presented as a patchwork in which the viewer can detect the presence of minor deviations from a major theme. In a few cases a more definite contrast is created, a borderline that separates two blocks of colour that are noticeably distinct. But there are no sharp changes of colour, no provocations for viewer's eyes.

Coloured blocks are repeated to establish a pattern in the form of a grid. While there is some slight variation in the use of colour there is no perceptible variation in the size of the blocks within each work. The blocks - often squares - are small, the sides only a few centimetres in length. They are generally bound together, sometimes with space visible between them but sometimes without.

Camilla uses discrete blocks to form the rows and columns that comprise her grids. Unlike traditional brickwork - where blocks are laid with alternate stretchers and headers, in Flemish bond or in herringbone - these blocks of colour are stacked alongside and upon each other. Despite being bound together they are not interlocked; these are not load-bearing walls.

The grids are made from a variety of materials. Some are made from felt, which has been cut and dyed, then sewn together to form a variegated pattern. The felt is then attached to linen and stretched. Others are made by the application of ink or paint - or a combination of both - onto paper. In these grids the blocks are drawn or painted adjacent to each other, then "tied down" by stitches drawn in darker ink. When the paper is visible between the blocks it creates the illusion that the blocks might float above the paper's surface if they were untied.

These different materials allow Camilla to manufacture different effects, both by the way the blocks are connected to each other to form grids and by the way that colour contrasts are presented. In the felt works the grids appear closer, tighter and more robust. The colour variations are achieved when blocks of different colour are placed adjacent to one another. In the paper works the grids appear open, looser and more fragile. Here variations in colour can be achieved within each block as well as between adjacent blocks. The grids appear more dispersed but the colours are more intense.

© Mark Hannam 2009