Strategic Colour



Painting by Alice Mumford
Roses and a field of buttercups, Polgrean
61 x 76 cm, oil on canvas
The Pink and White Edged Plate and mirror
61 x 76 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
The Studio Room with Mirror
76 x 61 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Rosehips in the Studio Window, Polgrean
76 x 61 cm, oil on canvas
Spring Awakening
76 x 61 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
Frost and Early Morning Sun
76 x 61 cm, oil on canvas,

Painting by Alice Mumford
The Provencal Jug and Two Yellows
61 x 76 cm, oil on canvas
Lunch Outside with the Indian Tablecloth
71 x 91 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
French Windows and Red Table Cloth
71 x 91 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
The Window Upstairs,Polgrean
71 x 91 cm, oil on canvas
Summers Day, Lesceave, Cornwall
60 x 60 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
Oranges, Lemons and the Green Glass Jug
50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
The Kitchen Table, Polgrean
50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas
Summer heat on the Patio, Lesceave Cornwall
50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
Anemones in the Window, Portscatho
50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Olive Tree Shadows, Polgrean
50 x 50 cm, oil on canvas
Spring Flowers against the Light
51 x 61 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
The Yellow and Striped White Cloth and Lemons in a Glass Bowl
51 x 61 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Cherry Blossom in Early Morning May Light
51 x 61 cm, oil on canvas
The Olive Tree in a Cloudless Sky
61 x 51 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
The Emerald Green Cloth
40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Chair and Two Blues
35 x 25 cm, oil on canvas
Roses by the Open Door
25 x 30 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
Cobalt and Violet Blue Shadows
25 x 35 cm, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Apple blossom in the window with The Pink Cup
35 x 25 cm, oil on canvas
Cornflowers and the Emerald Green Cloth
35 x 25 cm, oil on canvas
Painting by Alice Mumford
Bright Lights and White Table Cloth
25 x 30 cm, oil on board

Painting by Alice Mumford
Wild Weather, St Ives School of Painting
30 x 25 cm, oil on board
Late Afternoon, St Ives School of Painting
30 x 25 cm, oil on board
Painting by Alice Mumford
Two Tables of Flowers
30 x 25 cm, oil on board

Painting by Alice Mumford
Opening the French Windows, Polgrean
1 x 1 metre, oil on canvas
Orange Juice and Plums
25 x 30 cm, oil on board
Painting by Alice Mumford
Summer days at Lesceave, Cornwall
1 x 1.02 metre, oil on canvas

Painting by Alice Mumford
Still Light with Bright Lights
30 x 25 cm, oil on board









Alice Mumford  Strategic Colour

There is in all of Alice Mumford’s work a focus on light’s capacity to animate, for light is her essential subject. First and foremost a colourist, her eye is keenly attuned to the physical and sensory effects of colour, its chromatic variations and interactions, and to the ways in which the eye navigates and makes sense of both objects and space, its comprehension informed by the quality and play of light. The artist’s motifs of still life and landscape stem from her surroundings; the stuff of her everyday life, transformed in paint to conjure something that speaks of both permanence and transience. Her work reflects the seasons. Here, Summer Heat on the Patio, Lesceave, Cornwall summons the optical effects of high summer, the way that motes swim and things momentarily appear to shimmer and dissolve as one narrows one’s gaze as it moves from shadow towards the glare of the sun. Frost and Early Morning Sun is equally though differently dramatic, its raked wintry light causing long bluish shadows whilst making hues in a bowl of fruit sharper. Elsewhere, the drama of light and colour relationships is gentler, more nuanced, particularly in domestic still life arrangements such as The Pink and White Edged Plate and Mirror, in which the interplay between a still life and its reflection creates a picture within a picture, the inflected whites of tablecloth and mirror frame merging the two.

Amongst Mumford’s most admired painters are Matisse and Cézanne, though it is with Bonnard that she feels the closest kinship. She sometimes makes painted copies from works by other artists in an attempt to understand them more deeply, and recently made a copy of Bonnard’s ‘The Dining Room at Le Cannet’ (1932). Subsequently, she recounted how it was only upon realising that she had omitted from her canvas a small patch of blue that Bonnard had painted near to the centre of his tabletop still life that it dawned on her that this was the very thing that held everything in place:

“I had pretty much finished the copy, and began to think that the mysteries of how this painting worked were impenetrable. Then I realised I had omitted the small, blue, diagonal rectangle, that adjoins the large orange rectangle in the middle of the canvas. Without this dark blue chip, the structure of the space seemed to fall apart. Not only does it provide a way into the picture, as the point of most contrast, but it also brightens all the whites, oranges and yellow-oranges, creating this incredible bouncing light.”

We cannot be certain whether Bonnard invented this anchoring fragment, or painted it from a carefully chosen object: it was though clearly fundamental to his pictorial stratagem. And it is insights such as this, into the often-complex architecture of shape and colour involved in picture making, which inform and underpin Mumford’s work. There is for instance a not dissimilar patch of colour to that of the Bonnard in her Summer days at Lesceave; a centrally placed blue-black strip that describes the edge of a dish or book set on a table positioned out of doors, and that marks a point in space between the blacks within a vase of flowers in the foreground and those in a group of shrubs set further back against sea and sky. One realises that here too this ostensibly minor component is fundamental to the creation of pictorial space. This painting and Opening the French Windows, Polgrean – the two largest and most complex canvases here – each consist of a sequence of interconnected interior and exterior spaces, in which a room is bathed in warm light, light which flows through a curtained open doorway that acts as a proscenium linking inside and outside worlds.

The artist has said before how important tempo is in her painting, referring to the rhythm and pace of application of pigment to canvas. She employs a wide vocabulary of mark, sometimes put down with deliberative forethought; sometimes more spontaneously, with concentrated speed. In some works one senses the scrabbling of the brush in its quest to pin down a transitory effect, the paint scurried on in impasto or dry-brush. This certainly applies to certain of the small still life canvases shown here, all of them essays in pure painting; Apple blossom in the window with The Pink Cup and Bright Lights and White Table Cloth are amongst prime examples. Elsewhere, in works such as the lyrical The Olive Tree in a Cloudless Sky, the handling is softer, more delicate and restrained. Throughout, Mumford elicits an unforced poetry, one that stems from her deep commitment to the craft of painting, and a continuing fascination with colour and light.

Dr Ian Massie
July 2017