About Grid paintings

I decided quite early on that I had to simplify everything. When I began making this work, the Covid-19 public health crisis was in its first few dramatic, grim, weird weeks. Initially I was motivated by the feeling that I needed to make my work much more intimate in scale and conception. Paper, pencils and gouache were what I had to hand.


Gradually, as I experimented with colour and measurement, a process emerged. This process is tied as much to aesthetic desires as it is to meditation and therapy. I concentrate on a monk-like task, I calm my racing mind, I mark and fill time liberated from its normal fetters.

I begin with setting out the grid, that ancient method of organizing and conceptualizing. Then the triangles are coloured in an alternating “on/off” all-over pattern. Each piece is titled with its date of completion. The resulting compositions shimmer and ripple with a restless exuberance. They dazzle, flipping and dancing in the eye. They are calendars, diaries, charts of time and activity.


Having established a modus operandi, I moved from paper to canvas. As paintings, they display the same optical effects but also play with surface, layers of colour and an expanded range for error. Whereas the work on paper can read as physically light and fleeting, the canvases present a greater monumentality, as though they are more fully elaborated statements, more bound to reality.  


The other, much more simple truth, is that in many ways I just want to make beautiful work.

I know and am concerned about inequalities in the world, that our society is not perfect and in need of improvement. I am terribly pre-occupied by the rise and seeming normalization of far-right politics. I abhor all forms of racism, sexism and intolerance. I don’t want to know that my daughter will grow old in a world whose climate has been permanently fucked by mere centuries of human industry. But I am a painter, and a little bit stupid. I don’t want those things in my paintings. Not obviously, at least.


I would like my work to elicit the same kind of thrilling sensation one gets when listening to the Supremes, like excitement tempered by a certain melancholy; a hovering, tenuous, reaching note that nonetheless soars heavenward, inviting hope for better things.


All photos in this gallery by Paul Litherland