The Spring Auction 2020

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50. David Mullen

Terres Vertes

Estimate: £600 - 900

The Spring Auction 2020 - Lot 50, David Mullen, Terres Vertes

Indigo, iron oxides, titanium white and terres vertes on oil on linen
90 x 50 cm.
Painted in 2020

For this curated section of The Spring Auction 2020 we selected seven artists whose work is concerned with the environment and the impact of climate change (more details).

Terres Vertes is an exploration of the materiality of paint and the colour interactions of these naturally occurring pigments.

David Mullen uses a variety of different ‘terres vertes’ or ‘green earth’ pigments for the starting point for this painting. Green earth pigments can be found in many different European countries and are a mixture of ferrous silicates in aluminium and magnesium clays.

The resulting colours can range from brownish greens to bright almost turquoise greens. Along with iron oxide pigments such as ochres and siennas they are the most readily available naturally occurring inorganic pigments for painters today. The slight sandy texture in the indigo is due to the paint being handmade by the artist himself.

First used by the ancient Romans, terres vertes has been identified on wall paintings at Pompeii. In the Middle Ages one of its best-known uses was in the underpainting of flesh tones.

David deals with the relevance of contemporary painting and abstraction. A desire to reduce the waste created as a by-product of his paintings has led to a radical shift to make his practice more ecologically sustainable. His ambition is to create oil paintings that, if unsuccessful, could safely be put onto a compost heap rather than into landfill. The paintings must therefore be biodegradable and non-toxic.

This has allowed him to cultivate his long-standing interest in colour and the materiality of paint, by forcing him to use natural earth pigments and organic pigments synthesised from plants, such as woad, weld and madder. The ultimate goal is to make paintings using pigments synthesised from plants grown in compost containing previous paintings.


BA Painting, Camberwell College of Arts.
MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths.

Awards: Shortlisted for the 2019 HIX award.

The Spring Auction 2020 - Lot 50, David Mullen, Terres Vertes

28 Mar Mar 28

Candid Arts, 3 Torrens St, London EC1V 1NQ