Color Wheels

The Color Wheels project is both a visual journal and systems-based color study. I have used the wheels as a foundation for creating large, sometimes serial, seemingly-abstract works, many of which are multiple-panel compositions.

Ellen Heck - Pink Angels Rotated 90 Degrees Counterclockwise
Ellen Heck - Carolina Color Wheels:Green Fans

The wheels for each grouping are intaglio printed from the same plate, and serve as both a sub-structure and not-so-blank slate. I begin by considering one wheel at a time, often finding a particular theme for a panel and behaving as if it were a stand-alone piece. The wheel lends itself to organizing information, and I have used panels to chart the color of the surface of the San Francisco Bay over time, break apart master works to examine their components, and document a series of self-assigned systems that are often a chimerical mix of process and play.

Inspired by de Kooning’s Pink Angels (1945), Pink Angels Rotated 90° Counterclockwise (top) is set of 12 drypoint color wheels breaking down that original composition. Through a variety of media, the individual segments both connect to adjacent parts and remain finished works within themselves. My goal with recent color wheel sets has been to take the panels to the point where a viewer is able to see both the beginnings of a larger system and its individual components. Carolina Color Wheels: Green Fans (above) narrows the palette and theme, including references to natural history illustration and Robert Henri’s painting currently hanging in the Gibbes Museum. With Carolina Color Wheels: Drift (below), I focused on movement within the larger composition, paying close attention to the self-imposed rule that transitions from one panel to the next must always be achieved with different media. While each color wheel begins from an intaglio print pulled from the same copper plate, every panel in this set is completed with unique materials.

Ellen Heck - Carolina Color Wheels: Drift

Inspired by the woodblock print of the same title by Torii Kotondo (1929), Kamisuki (Combing the Hair) (below) follows the same rules as other color wheel sets in this series. Each panel starts from the same copper plate, but diverges in materials and reconvenes to form the beginnings of a larger composition. This set makes particular use of monoprint, with several overlapping mobius strips on the upper left panel that reference a concurrent portrait series Fascinators. The lower left panel includes a ring of Kamisuki thumbnails in a range of varying palettes, the result of a Google image search for the “original” Torii Kotondo print.

Like other wheel sets, Carolina Color Wheels: Echeveria and Piccadilly Circus (below) deals with identity and connection. Inspired by the Piccadillies of Dieter Roth, the middle left panel references the artist’s long-running series. An exercise of both convergent and divergent thinking, every panel starts from the same place, becomes a unique image, and then is reworked to help establish a larger composition. I want to tell a story of family resemblance, change and circumstance — the almost-blank slate and all the accumulation that makes it interesting.

Ellen Heck - Carolina Color Wheels: Echeveria and Piccadilly Circus