Most public display of my artwork since 2003 has been mural commissions.
These murals and colour effects use mainly watercolour or natural paints, finished with a glaze for protection. The technique is called lazure: it uses layer upon layer of semi-transparent colour. This is a flexible method that enables colour to free itself from the flat appearance of normal wall paints and appear to float in front of a white surface, which illuminates the colour from behind. The surface must have a texture to hold the layers, however. Sometimes a texture is created by adding sand or other material to the undercoat. The word ‘lazure’ is derived from the German “lasur” meaning “glaze”.
The murals shown here represent a body of work from 1997-2006, including 9 major lazure mural commissions, over 660 sq.ms, in Belgium, Australia and New Zealand (see Workshops and Projects page), in school halls, medical/therapeutic and educational spaces for youth, aged care and disability clients. I have also completed 7 smaller commissions: for a bookshop, retirement village, private bedrooms and medical waiting rooms. The murals range from 2m x 3m to 6m x 8m on any one wall, but are sometimes embedded in a lazured hall or large room, which means the total space may be up 120 sq.m.
Walls that breathe
The themes are primarily gentle, imaginative and colourful, qualities that bring out the best in watercolour medium. There are fantasy elements expressing the four elements in nature for children or young people with intellectual disabilities; and moods of serene inwardness for the very elderly, for healing spaces or for quiet contemplation in chapels. Always the most important quality is that the colour breathes.
The use of lazure colour is under-utilized in Australia, where it is very effective for creating atmosphere, since it has a softer finish than flat acrylics and oil paints. Most lazure murals do not overwhelm a space but fulfil it; therefore they are not always fully formed, allowing the viewer to “live into” the work. They are immersive, experiential spaces that allow the viewer to interact imaginatively with the work.
I use natural pigments or watercolour, but a fully saturated surfaces are more difficult to achieve with watercolour than with acrylics. Watercolour is a difficult wall medium, but is more transparent and mobile than acrylics and oils. Watercolour has a shining quality that only a master such as William Turner can achieve using oils.