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Abstract Marbles


(c) Linda Hutchison October 2020

I’d been part of the makers’ movement for eons when I decided to take a clay sculpting course. I work with clay regularly but knew that learning alongside other makers kindled my creativity. The teacher outlined our project.
“We will explore sculptural techniques by building a free-standing contemporary form. Your finished pieces will be exhibited at an awards night. Is everyone excited?”
I wasn’t thrilled by her announcement. I prefer my own company. But a public display was a small price to pay for the freedom to create what I wanted.
“A team of experts will evaluate your submission, apportioning marks for volume, weight, form and texture.”
“What about colour?” piped up a lady across the room. Given her selection of bright garments, I guessed she favoured a broad palette.
“Your piece will be monochrome, and grey.”
There was a collective sigh around the room.
“How can we make a beautiful piece using grey?” remonstrated the colour-swathed lady. “What about flaming reds and simmering oranges?”
I had to agree. I was passionate about colour. My early works had been watercolour – ethereal portrayals of light. From there I developed a strong interest in bright, bold pigments. My palette embraced sea-green turquoise and brilliant ultramarine, stormy silvery navy and midnight blue, forest green, sage, olive, the boldness of emerald, and tang of lime. On the side, a splash of pineapple, dove white, geranium red, or bougainvillea purple. I had worked in yellow ochres and red oxides, but rarely grey.
“Colour is a distraction. Consider the surface and the balance of the form, aspects you may otherwise overlook.”
She unveiled uninspiring lumps of clay and we set about making grey, non-functional forms. Everything in me rebelled.
Eight weeks later, I arrived at the exhibition with my finished piece. No one guessed from the dusty grey surface that I had skilfully wound elaborate bands of colours into the layers. My engineering background had also imagined a use for the sculpture. Given just the right positioning, it had the potential to complete a work I had in progress.
The judges were less than complimentary as they appraised my grey sphere with fingerprint indentations.
“A mediocre object of nothing,” grimaced one, rotating it in his hand. I cringed as he tossed it carelessly to his fellow panel member.
The second judge caught it deftly, then placed it on the table before wiping dust from his hands. “A mildly offensive offering, no?”
The third judge kept her distance, refusing to even touch my work.
“It’s marginally original, overwhelmingly nonsensical.”
My teacher was clearly unhappy with their feedback and sought to reassure me.
“Does it have a name?” she asked quietly.
I thought of the place it would take in my creation, near a blue-green sphere, lit from various angles by a fiery gold glow. I imagined the reflection of silvery light from its surface, and the shadows across the dimples.
“It’s a magical orb of nuance. I call it the moon.”

Monochrome: Work
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