SUE VINER (b. 1956)

With a virtuoso hand, combined with an acute observation, appreciation, and understanding of nature, Sue Viner’s work marries ancient techniques and knowledge, with a contemporary sense of design and aestheticism. Captivating and mesmerising in equal measures, it is almost impossible to argue as to whether the artworks present best in modern or traditional interiors. This perhaps draws our attention to the foundation of their appeal: they are timeless, and harness a universal beauty that transcends decades, centuries, cultures and fashion. Highly responsive to their surroundings, the works resemble living entities that transform throughout the day and night, reacting to the changing conditions and light. They take on a spiritual, contemplative dimension in candle-light.

Many of the pigments used in the artworks have been meticulously prepared by Sue in their raw forms, and originate from a vast array of sources, including beetles, minerals, glass, and plants. The techniques she employs are the same as those refined by the early Renaissance Florentine master Giotto (1266-1339).

The minerals from which many of the pigments originate have, for centuries, been highly prized. Transported along ancient trade routes, their beauty - and often scarcity - has made them extremely sought after, and imbued owners and institutions with signifiers of power, wealth, and status. Indeed, the dangers involved in transporting the goods along the Silk Routes often resulted in costs far higher than money. Lapis lazuli (the vibrant blue), came from the mines of Afghanistan, and was for centuries worth more than gold. As such, the more lapis used in a religious painting, the more devoted it was deemed.

Creating the artworks also involves a meticulous process involving gesso, carving, gilding, invented by the Ancient Egyptians and perfected in the Italian Renaissance: to this present day, the techniques have neither been changed nor improved upon.

Combining the above methods and knowledge, with a contemporary artist’s modern sensibility and design, Sue’s artworks essentially span five millennia - and have been around 4000 years in the making.

 

 

 

 

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Nasturtiums

signed with monogram (lower right)
egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel
143⁄4 x 143⁄4 in. (37.5 x 37.5 cm.)


frame (with silk velvet surround) 221⁄4 x 221⁄4 in. (56.5 x 56.5 cm.)

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Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Peacock feather

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

11 ¾ x 11 ¾ in. (29.8 x 21.8 cm.)

£2200

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Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Cyclamen

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

5 ⅞ x 5 ⅞ in. (15 x 15 cm.)

£1950

 

 

 

 

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Cerinthe

signed with monogram (lower right)
egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding

on oak panel
5 7⁄8 x 5 7⁄8 in. (14.9 x 14.9 cm.)
frame (with silk velvet surround) 13 3⁄8 x 13 3⁄8 in. (34 x 34 cm.)

Sold

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Iris

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

32.5 x 42 cm. (12 ¾ x 16 ½  in.)

£3800

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Dragonfly

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

5 ⅞ x 5 ⅞ in. (15 x 15 cm.)

sold

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Weeping willow

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

11 x 8 ⅝  in. (27.9 x 21.9 cm.)

£2200

 

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Nasturtium

egg tempera and gold leaf on vellum

22.3 x 27.3 cm. (8 ¾ x 10 ¾ in.)

£895

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Cerinthe

egg tempera and gold leaf on vellum

22.3 x 27.3 cm. (8 ¾ x 10 ¾ in.)

£895

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Fuschia

egg tempera and gold leaf on vellum

10 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (27.3 x 22.3 x cm.)

with frame 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in. (27 x 22.3 cm.)

£895

Sue Viner (b. 1956)

Fern

signed with monogram (lower right)

egg tempera on carved gesso with gilding, on oak panel

11 x 8 ⅝  in. (27.9 x 21.9 cm.)

£2200

Methods and materials

 

Modern technologies have been unable to improve on many of the ancient processes that Sue employs, which require expertise, knowledge, and hours of painstaking and meticulous preparation.

 

Panel

Each panel is made of sturdy, reliable (and highly tactile) English Oak.

 

Gesso

 

Gesso is made from rabbit-skin glue and ground chalk: a multitude of layers are gradually built up and sanded down, to produce a smooth white surface. This can be carefully carved, or more gesso skilfully applied, to create raised areas.

 

Bole

 

Coloured clay (bole) is applied to seal the gesso, and create the surface on which to gild.

 

Gilding

 

Water-gilding was invented by the  Ancient Egyptians. Thin sheets of gold are laid with an ox-hair brush onto the boule, and then burnished.

 

Gold Leaf

 

The most malleable and ductile of all metals, gold can be beaten as thin as 0.18 microns (seven millionths of an inch), where a stack of 7,055 sheets would be no thicker than a 5p coin. Egyptian tomb paintings and reliefs from 2300 BC are the first known examples depicting gold being beaten into leaf. Today, there are many other uses, including the visors of astronauts' space helmets, which receive a coating of gold so thin (0.00005 millimetres, or 0.000002 inches) that it is partially transparent.

 

Egg Tempera

 

The combined use of egg tempera (pigments bound in egg yolk) gilding and gold leaf was invented by the Ancient Egyptians, and the technique has remained unchanged since. Coloured pigments (ground in distilled water) are ‘bound’ in egg yolk, and painted onto a white gesso ground. This medium gives a wonderfully intense vibrancy, and almost ethereal luminosity.

 

 

Pigments

 

Yellow and red ochre were first used on cave walls (such as Lascaux in France) by early man. Carbon, from the fat of burnt animals, was used for black.

 

The Chinese and Egyptians increased the intensity and purity of earth colours, by cleaning and washing them, while discovering new pigments from minerals such as Cinnabar (the first bright red), Malachite and Azurite. Another brilliant red, invented by the Chinese, came from Vermilion, some 2,000 before it was employed by the Romans.

 

Egyptian blue (circa 3000 BC) was made from copper and sand, and ground into a powder.

 

Tyrian Purple was incredibly difficult to make, as the process involved extracting mucus from thousands of Murex snails. Due to it’s vibrance and cost, it came to represent money and power for the Greeks and Romans.

 

The first opaque white pigments (Flake white and Cremnitz white) were invented by the Greeks. Production was particularly pungent, and involved lead strips being stacked and left with animal dung and vinegar.

 

The Renaissance saw the development of a rich range of earth pigments. Siennas and umbers were roasted to create Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna - colours popular with the Italian Masters. Terre verte was a key under-paint used for capturing skin tones.

 

Lapis


The deep blue made from lapis lazuli was the most expensive pigment in the medieval craftsman’s palette, and for many centuries was more valuable than gold. To view a short film on lapis lazuli, please click here.

 

Cochineal is made from ground snails. To see the process, please click here.