Art Appreciation Series: Deborah Duffin on Alastair Milne Mitchie

Art Appreciation Series: Deborah Duffin on Alastair Milne Mitchie

We asked our artists to share their favourite works from our Permanent Collection. Here is Artist Network member Deborah Duffin's pick:


Alastair Milne Mitchie (1921-2008), Tropic of Capricorn 7, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 91cm

I don't know anything about his work, but this piece stood out for me because of the colour, which was very different from anything else in the collection.

I don't know the date of this painting, but for me it both harks back to British painting of the mid-20th century in terms of its composition, shapes used and juxtaposition of those shapes, and to the present day in terms of its use of colour, and lines in relation to other forms.

The smoky browns and greys are beautifully contrasted by the delicate mauves and pinks, the tangy oranges and stark whites. I respond with glee to the bounce of the lines and the small, more rounded shapes which seem to wriggle around on the surface of the canvas. I am particularly enticed by the deep mauve lines which straddle the work and somehow make links between all the other forms. I love the mauve/purple arch towards to top and the way it relates to a similar shape (but more solid) in rusty red to the right. As I contemplate this work, others things begin to stand out - the small pale grey shapes at the bottom of the canvas, the tiny dots and splodges which bob around and some of the more delicate lines which are almost submerged by the mistiness of the scumbled browns. I must mention his use of black (referred to in the only piece of writing I found on his work, an obituary in 2008 by Peter Davies, Independent 5.5.08) another counterpoint to the pale hues of the rest of the painting. The two more rigid shapes in pink and mauve at the edges on both sides, seem to hold and contain the movement within the work; they also appear to conceal things that can almost be glimpsed beneath - rather tantalising - which seems to break down the boundary-like effect of these shapes.

Overall, what I like most about this piece is its energy and movement, which relates to what my own work is about - attempting to capture and encapsulate the feeling of the energy that underpins all life on earth and, at the same time, to have a unique life of its own. I suspect this painting will remain in mind for years to come: it is a painting I could look at day after day, and always find something new within it.