INTERVIEW: Ellen Ranson | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Colin Davison

Stand back and clear the way, because artist Ellen Ranson is coming through. Awash with fresh gestures and a sponge loaded with ideas, the winner of Northumbria University’s Painting Fellowship is making waves in the North East art scene. Her latest show, Under The Eaves takes place at Hartlepool Art Gallery from Tuesday 18th January until Saturday 14th March and promises to be a riot of abstract expressionist colour and movement.

Born into a self-confessed left-leaning household in Tow Law, Ranson’s love of abstract expressionism presented her with a problem. How could she admire artists who held views on gender that excluded her as a woman? “I couldn’t just make work about painting and the exploration of colour. I couldn’t ignore how female artists were pushed out of the movement in the 1960s.” She explains. 

Ranson’s response to this quandary is as ambitious as it is brave. Her solution is to undermine patriarchy by playing it at its own game.  If Rothko can paint big, she can paint bigger. If de Kooning can make it bright, her work will always be brighter. Her confident, in-your-face approach empowers marginalised voices through every sweep of her arm.

Ranson’s work is bold and physical and engages her whole body in its creation. Everything is scaled up, from the broom she uses in place of a brush to her over-sized canvases. Household paints give the work a certain materiality as well as lending it a contemporary feel. 

Under The Eaves will be Ranson’s first major solo show. It takes its name from a play on words that links both her work and the venue’s previous incarnation as a church. Each piece is named after the paint she uses in its creation. Under The Eaves therefore is not only  inspired by the roof beams under which her work will be shown, and the obvious religious connections with the Bible’s ultimate wronged women, but also from a dark brown paint she found in Homebase. 

We might have come along way in terms of gender equality since the early days of the abstract expressionists, but today’s #MeToo movement shows that there’s still a way to go. Thankfully, artists like Ellen Ranson are just getting started. 

Ellen Ranson’s Under The Eaves is exhibited at Hartlepool Art Gallery from Tuesday 18th January until Saturday 14th March

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