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Off grid

By Sophie Carter


Selina Foote is an artist with extremely steady hands. Her latest exhibition, On a Clear Night, has opened at the Suter Art Gallery, in Nelson.


Selina Foote, Chignon, 2022. Photo by Sam Hartnett

Foote’s paintings are contemporary abstractions from historical artworks, which she uses as her source material. She begins by dissecting the composition and palette of an older artwork and then uses them to form the foundation for something new. “I might borrow a colour from the fabric of a dress, or the hue of a lipstick,” she explains.


Modernist works provided her source material for On a Clear Night. She researched the movement from its roots with Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzales, through to late modernism, where she explored works of American abstract painters Robert Ryman, Frank Stella, and Agnes Martin. The only clues to Foote’s origin artworks are hints in her paintings’ titles.


Selina Foote, On a Clear Night (install view), The Suter Art Gallery

The Auckland-born artist began painting in her distinctive style while working towards her Master of Fine Arts degree, in 2010 at The Elam School of Fine Arts. Her rule-based, structured system has been evolving since then. Although from a distance her lines appear perfectly regular, a closer inspection might reveal a “small shift in the grid, or a brushstroke.” She uses a ruler to draw the grid with which she starts a piece, but everything from there is freehand.


It is important to Foote that her work remains unmechanical, incorporating slight inconsistencies in her shapes and lines. She often leaves behind residual pencil marks from the drawing process: “The evidence of making the work becomes part of the image itself,” says Foote. “I like that pencil also suggests something preparatory or propositional, as if it could be changed.”


Selina Foote, Lydia, 2022. Photo by Sam Hartnett

The works in her latest exhibition include several “new grid formations, and a wave motif” which Foote began using last year. She plans to continue to exploring these techniques and variations on them.




First published in Art Zone #92

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