Mary Webb (b. London, 1939), studied Fine Art at Newcastle University (1958-63), under the supervision of Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore, before completing her postgraduate studies at Chelsea School of Art in 1964. Webb lives and works in Suffolk, UK.
Webb has dedicated her art practice, spanning almost six decades to date, to the exploration of the abstract form through painting, printmaking and collage. At the core of it lies the considered relationship between colour and form, through which the artist renders the world around her as a timeless abstraction.
Whilst studying at Newcastle University, Webb and her fellow students visited London to see the New American Painting show at the Tate Gallery in 1959. The monumental scale and colour of the works included in this now infamous exhibition had a profound effect on Webb, who cites this as a pivotal moment in her career. This influence can still be seen throughout her practice.
Webb’s work is part of a tradition of modernist painters employing geometry to create a new vision of the world. She has the sensibility of a landscapist, often drawing inspiration from the places she travels to - registering the shapes, colours, and light, grounding the work in a specific place. The relationship between colour and place is an ongoing interest for this confident and experienced colourist, ignited at an early age by flicking through copies of National Geographic as well as American comic books – with their distinctly bright, yet slightly bleached out, blocks of colour. Now, she sees her artworks as landscapes filtered by her memories and distilled to blocks of flat pigment: for example, the City Series was inspired by a boat trip around the isle of Manhattan where the artist viewed the buildings as sliding past her like a monumental a collage. In the Utah Series the vast, arid American landscape stretches across the painting, whilst a grid references the Grand Staircase-Escalante, depicting seismic shifts that shaped the landscape millions of years ago.
Mary Webb’s artworks are laboriously considered and are a result of a multi-stage process. As an initial stage, the artist will use her memory and photographs to make water colour paintings and collages using shaped pieces of paper which she pre-paints to achieve a particular colour and consistency. Often working in series to explore an idea thoroughly, Webb scales up the studies to create her monumental square oil paintings. The artist selects specific paintings to develop into screen prints when the colours and shapes lend themselves to the precision and process of printmaking. As a result, each work exists in different incarnations, offering a chance to explore colour not only through the mode of application, but also through a variety of media.
Mary Webb’s work invites the viewer to look closely at the interplays of colour and form, and in doing so, to enter into a contemplative, uplifted state. Webb’s work is held by several public art collections, including the Arts Council Collection, Sainsbury Centre (UEA), Kettle’s yard and The Sonia Delaunay Collection (Paris).