“I love painting because it requires a combination of analytics and intuition,” says artist Madelynn Mae Green. Born in Milwaukee, Madelynn began painting at the age of 14 and continued simply because she “enjoyed it”. Following on from this, in 2017 she moved across to the UK to pursue an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.
Madelynn’s subject matter revolves primarily around warped versions of family photographs, research into archival footage and staged domestic scenarios. “I distort colour, scale and composition to create alternative versions of reality,” she tells It’s Nice That. In doing so, the artist also aims to make clear the constructedness of her paintings, which she says “appear clearly fabricated; paint drips, details are omitted, and forms take on ethereal qualities.”
But to Madelynn, her practice is more than just the creation of something physical. It allows her to think deeply about subjects from colour theory and composition, to history and philosophy. “Through painting, I find I am able to engage with topics far beyond paint,” she says. This notion was bolstered by her studies while at Central Saint Martins, in which she explored the idea of the painting as a persona, or a body: “This research has inspired my painting style and philosophy. I approach paintings holistically, making sure to develop them from a formal perspective all while considering their subjective characteristics. This can include their political, cultural, and psychological dimensions.”
Equally inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s theory of “painting forces” – the idea that in your work you can depict intangible concepts such as gravity, fear and time – Madelynn began attempting to capture similarly abstract emotions such as “tenderness, nostalgia, memory, and loss”. This is clearly felt in her work, much of which has a sentimentality about it that is not explicit, and yet strongly pervades each piece. Faces are occasionally obscured, much like they can be in our own memories.
As a black female artist, Madelynn’s advice for her fellow women of colour pursuing their own artistic practices is to not listen to people who do not have your best interests at heart. She says that their inability to fathom the idea of a black woman as an artist “may affect how they interact with you, how valuable they think your work is, and make them doubt your potential. Their advice might be clouded by these assumptions.” She also encourages resourcefulness and intuition: "Work with the materials and resources that are readily available to you; there is no established path to success and you do not need expensive tools to make art,” she adds.
Speaking on social change, Madelynn explains that though she believes art is a powerful tool, she lacks faith in the art market, insisting that it does not “support work that advocates for the destruction of the very economic and social systems that sustain it.” And with regards to selling her own artwork, she wants it to be accessible to all, aiming to “establish a diverse collector base that includes women and people of colour.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.