Miles Hall: Pigmentum MMXVI

WHEN : 21st November - 21st December
WHERE : Jan Manton Art

At the height of the Italian quattrocento, the prosperity of Venice was considerably strengthened by the sale of oltremare de venecia (Venetian overseas goods). Imported products such as pepper, ginger, nutmeg and cloves found themselves combined with local ingredients that re-invigorated culinary and medical traditions. Importantly, the trade of spices provided an entry point for artists’ pigments and the golden age of Italian painting has a certain debt to the colours made from pigments that came from contacts established with eastern and middle-eastern civilisations.

While we don’t know whether Piero della Francesca ever relished a sugo di carni from Bologna, seasoned with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, we are certain (via the analysis of his paintings) that he had access to a diverse range of foreign pigments such as vermilion, verdigris, cinnabar, orpiment, azurite blue and the most famous pigment – ultramarine blue, made from imported lapis lazuli mined in what is today known as Afghanistan. Similar to the transmutations occurring in the kitchens of the Italian peninsula, Piero della Francesco incorporated foreign pigments with locally sourced materials such as yellow ochre, raw and burnt umber, vine black and red earth. More than five centuries later, Piero’s paintings continue to touch us through their chromatic beauty, formal elegance and economy of means.

In this way the history of pigments is also the history of cultures, people, trade and the relations established between different societies. These small, modestly sized works entitled PIGMENTUM MMXVI have found their inspiration through research into the history of the silk roads, augmented by a love for colour and the desire to bring pigments from diverse horizons into new configurations and visual dialogues. In a world that is increasingly characterised by the control of boarders, refugees, discrimination and intolerance, I hope that these paintings, in their own small way, can celebrate the beauty of what can occur when disparate things collide.

Miles Hall

Montpellier, November 2016

Image: Pigmentum (ultramaine blue): oil on dibond, 50x40cm, 2016