Student Spotlight: Alexandra Roddan

Alexandra Roddan studies Painting at Edinburgh College of Art and creates abstract, surreal cityscapes that are bursting with colour and energy. She has also studied at The Academy of Realist Art and Falmouth University, and having tried a variety of styles and forms, it is the colourful, vibrant cityscape that she is currently most drawn to producing. Alexandra is interested in the process of painting, application of paint, experimentation, and working with different surfaces and materials. We caught up with Alexandra to find out more about her artwork and her creative process.

What made you want to study Painting at Edinburgh College of Art?

Apart from the art school’s prestigious reputation, I was drawn to study here because of the large, light studio spaces. You don’t find places like this in London, which makes ECA so special. I have also had a bunch of relatives who have studied here. And when I visited Edinburgh for the first time I instantly loved it, so it seemed like the perfect choice!

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What makes you want to create art?

It is instinctual. I love the feeling I get when I create artwork, it’s like being on a high. I am not entirely sure what’s happening, which is exciting. I go with it and in the process of making I discover new possibilities and experiences. It is tough to balance the varieties of formal elements and subject matter as my paintings are densely layered, but the end result is always worth it. I love the experience of creating something new – ‘surprising myself’ with the end result when everything comes together.

How would you describe your work?

In simple terms: colourful abstract cityscapes that are densely layered with different materials and subject matter. They can appear to be quite chaotic, but the way they are made is fairly controlled as I have a system in place to create work. My aim is to create a visual harmony between chaos and control. When I start a painting I generally use a grid or a projection of a cityscape which provides a structure for me to layer upon. I have tried out a bunch of other painting styles, evident on my website, but I have narrowed my practice to focus on developing a series of abstract cityscapes.

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Tell us about your use of form, shape, and colour.

When I paint I use a wide variety of different materials such as enamel, hardware, acrylic, oil, gloss paint, graphite, crayon, pro marker, and pastel. In more recent work I used card and bubble wrap, supergluing objects to make them more 3D. I enjoy experimenting with the physicality of the painted surface. Experimenting with mark making is key to get a variety of textures and I use a wide variety of colour too. Colour is the most important formal element to my paintings; I feel colour can completely transform the energy of a piece of work. The feeling you get when you view a work is key, which is why colour is so important. I also rely on it to bring shapes forward and others back – creating dynamics, bringing a rhythmic quality to the painting.

You seem to have explored a variety of styles and subjects in the work on your website. Do you have a favorite style, form, and subject to paint?

Abstract cityscapes, for sure. The other work on my website has progressed to this work. In particular, the classical work I have made at The Academy of Realist Art, where I learnt traditional drawing and painting techniques, gave me the confidence to produce more ambitious artwork, technically and contextually.

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What projects have you completed on your course? Is there one you’re most proud of?

I made ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’ in March, last academic year, which I am most proud of because it is when all the ideas and processes I explored from previous years came together for the first time; a combination of colour, layering materials, and subject matter to create a dynamic between the familiar cityscape and surreal imagery. Listening to music helped create colour relationships and a rhythmic quality to the work. ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ was inspired by a Coldplay album and I listened to it on repeat, focusing on the rhythms and each time finding something new to ebb on the painting. There are similarities between the colours I have used and the albums cover design, which is also an important source of inspiration for me.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt on your degree?

Don’t hold back! Don’t have a set notion about what the final outcome will look like, because then you have certain expectations to fill and there is pressure, so the work doesn’t come as naturally. And do the work you want to make, don’t be too influenced by what others want you to do because otherwise you lose sight of what’s important – what you want to do.

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How has your artistic style and work developed while studying painting?

In my first year at ECA I painted colourful, abstract, deliberately blurred subject matter. These were a series of paintings from blurred photos at the National Museum of Scotland. In my second year I focused on the cityscape and used a limited colour palette, focusing on odd structures in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, and photos of cities I had taken while inter-railing around Europe. The close-ups were painted realistically to draw attention to the subject matter, whereas the cityscapes were more expressionistic, focusing on atmospherics, creating an ambience for each place; slightly mysterious and curious. I tried to use colour to create an unsettling environment.

At the start of my third year I focused on window reflections and blurred imagery to layer materials. I also investigated the relationship between sounds and colour; how sound could be used to create colour relationships and different dynamics – a rhythmic quality to painting. I also explored the idea of process as outcome before coming to Edinburgh, but I wanted to try different things during my degree. Recently I have started to reinvestigate this looking at it from another perspective. One thing that has always been emphasised at ECA is to keep experimenting, to not be scared of trying new things and to work bigger!

skip-painting-2012 What are you currently working on?

I am working on a few different paintings right now. In the past I have focused on painting one piece at a time, so this is something new for me. I have found it beneficial because It has encouraged me to use more materials – I focus on one painting but if I feel the paint suits another one too then I add that one. This makes the process of painting far more flexible. I have also layered 3D objects and I am using a broader colour palette so my paintings are becoming busier and more experimental, as there is less pressure to achieve just one good outcome.

One painting I’m working on is a projected cityscape, layered heavily with lots of colour and surreal imagery inspired by music. The second is lots of different cityscapes that have been projected onto canvas, and I have painted over the projected drawings, combining it with my own mark making. I usually start a painting by projecting a cityscape then layering on different shapes but I started this painting the reverse way. I am going to rework into the marks, creating new shapes inspired by music and different cityscapes and imagery. Two other paintings have been made just listening to music, one while listening to the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on repeat, and was painted on the floor using unstretched canvas.

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Do you have a dream project for the future?

Not really, I haven’t thought that far ahead! I just ordered an 8 x 6ft frame and I am excited to work on a larger scale!

View more of Alexandra Roddan’s work at www.alexandraroddan.com.