Graduating in 2015 with a sold-out exhibition; the moody, monochromatic paintings of young artist Ruby Swinney (b.1992) continue to win acclaim. Painting in oil on tracing paper, her medium is wholly employed in the service of thematic concerns: Translucent brush strokes and nostalgic, muted colour evoke what the artist describes as a “deep loss of faith in what it means to be human, living in a vanishing natural world that is growing darker and unfamiliar”. Inspired by the Romantic movement, Greek mythology and writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Swinney’s work embraces the sublime, expressing an unattainable yearning for something lost to our present, uncertain and dislocated reality. These ideas manifest in “twilight”, ethereal scenes – parallel worlds inhabited by figures both mysterious and familiar, with lush vegetation retreating from – or perhaps reclaiming – manmade, modern spaces.
Swinney’s painting technique and conceptual focus made for an exciting translation to screen printing. Echoing the process of oil painting, Swinney developed her screen print in layers – but with each layer painted separately onto one of seven positives. These layers were printed over one another in various red tones of semi-transparent ink, the overlaps creating additional semitones and in-between, “twilight” colours. The result is a shimmering, ethereal scene of about 28 crimson shades.