Folded Light by Richard Heys

Folded Light series at Kaleidoscope Gallery


Abstract art asks us to explore our inner self giving us perhaps little to anchor our thoughts upon. When one has no conceptual anchors such as tree, bear, house, where does one go? What space do we find ourselves in? What feelings arise in us? These are my questions and this takes place through the medium of light, colour, thought and feeling. The painting and the viewer may become a conscious whole. For the painter every realised painting is a little world, complete, a wholeness, where everything is just so, no further ingress being necessary.


‘I think a painter has two choices: he paints the world or himself. And I think the best painting that’s done here is when he paints himself, and by himself I mean himself in this environment, in this total situation.’

– Philip Guston, 1960


If every painting is a world in itself then we have arrived at that place where each is a whole world of possibilities, enlivened and deepened by each viewer. In this mirroring of artwork and self we can recognise the need for a new and sustained focus; the focus of the questing mind as we experience an art to wonder at. What is reflected of ourselves when we ponder in this way? We can sense our interiority and experience this more strongly. We are of necessity turned back on ourselves with this question – what am I? What am I looking at?


The Romantics believed that colours arose due to the moral struggles of light, pure spirit meeting the material world. The colour most identified with the human being was magenta; this is the ‘pur pur’ or ‘peach blossom’ of Goethe’s Farbenlehrer (‘Theory of Colour’). He experienced each colour phenomenon as a whole world. He recognised with revelatory fascination that colour streams from edges, the meeting place of light and darkness. When looking through a prism for the first time he saw colours gathered at the edge of the window frame, not filling the room, and in that ‘moment worth a thousand’, he declared Newton wrong and started his phenomenological exploration of colour. His fascination for the soul qualities of colour has given Goethe a bad reputation, labelled ‘wrong minded’ by the scientific community. For the artist however, there is an enriching seam to explore once one takes seriously the feelings that arise through engaging with colour – this is an endless conversation.

For me colour is feeling, there really is no difference.



Many artists have recognised, with fascination the expressive potential of colour. Sonia Delaunay said last century – “Colour is the skin of the world.”


Goethe’s ‘Human’ colour, magenta, (best seen shining out of darkness), has guided me as a painter obsessively exploring life through the medium of colour. I have sensed the transformative activity of transparent colour. The realisation that one has a mind to fathom colour and courage to persist along this path has taken time. This most outmoded but timeless impractical activity, ‘painting’ still describes a most singular, pivotal human action.


For me every painting has the potential to be a world complete in itself. ‘Folded Light’ suggests an envelope; inside, outside, above, and below, pockets, spaces, fields and folded edges – along which light may move, pool and gather before flowing on. Where light streams and shadows gather. In the layering and overlaying of liquid colour light and darkness seem to speed and slow, rising and sinking as the painting comes to fruition. The larger paintings are acrylic on un-primed canvas. This approach, painting directly onto canvas, leaves an openness and velvety softness in the paint layers, until the canvas becomes saturated, when the paint takes on a more usual appearance.


“The new painting will really begin when we understand that colour has an existence of its own, that its infinite combinations have a poetry and a poetic idiom for more expressive than anything else that has ever existed.” (Sonia Delaunay)


To paint is to face down one’s demons, to declare the threshold is here between hand and canvas; to take a stand. As John Cage said “I have nothing to say, and I’m saying it”. The age of Idealism may be dead, but we still need our shamans, still need to find ways to speak our unsayable mantras. We still need to face the impervious; impossible fact of living, with the absurd creative act. Isn’t it out of weakness that we find our greatest strengths?



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