Living Paintings: An Interview with Latiya Nanton | Hosted by Millie Norman

Geometric abstract artist Latiya Nanton explores and probes the dialogues between shape and colour in her strikingly sharp visual work. Speaking to us about her practice and her project, 'The Shape of Us', in which she deconstructs national flags to celebrate and champion soul over politics, Nanton shares her thoughts on the link between the mathematical and artistic, the emotional power of colour and her search for a 'geometric language'.


Latiya Nanton, 2020


MN: In a previous interview with us, you explained you fell in love with colour before you decided to narrow in on its connection to heritage. Why is colour so foundational to your practice?


LN: Colour is fundamental to my practice because colour and expression is arguably one of the most visual ways to dive deep into the soul - the conscious and unconscious mind. In the early stages of constructing a painting, I would keep a diary which contained the colours I had created, the mood that I started and finished the day in and everything in-between. The colours and the paintings reflected how I felt. This made me realise that colour was my way to explore myself and the world. The way I reacted to a group of colours could be different to how someone else would react, reinforcing the individualism that colour creates.



MN: How does shape intersect with/speak to colour or change the way it behaves?


LN: Shapes become the container for the colour within. The hard edge technique that I use to paint creates a defined container for the colours. This means that when constructing a painting, everything from the position of the shapes to the assignment of the colour to the particular container must be thought through carefully. I often see the conversation within the painting before it's actually painted. I've always assumed that that's due to my obsession with colour; I have started to naturally know which colours will have either a harmonious conversation or a visually challenging conversation. I often enjoy the visual battle between warm and cold colours - a painting would feel complete without there being a point where both sides sit on the ground. 


Latiya Nanton, 2019


My “living paintings” are in reference to them being present in everyday society - as they are derivative of flags they serve to represent the nationality of living people through shape and colour. They hold their own presence without having to be explained or justified.  

MN: Geometric abstract artist El Lissitzky suggested that static shapes on a canvas are actually in a process of rising or falling. What role does motion play in your compositions? You have described one of your pieces as a “living painting”. 


LN: I think that statement is very intriguing. Shapes can remind us that everything is in a state of flux; if you add or subtract a line and connect others, you have effectively changed the shape and the relation it shares with the rest of the painting or image. Changing the shape changes the narrative. My “living paintings” are in reference to them being present in everyday society - as they are derivative of flags they serve to represent the nationality of living people through shape and colour. They hold their own presence without having to be explained or justified.  



MN: Geometric art creates a dialogue between  the mathematical and the artistic. What dialogues are at play in your work? In what ways is your work a communication between spaces, identities or disciplines? 


LN: I find the way negative and positive space is used affects how a piece is read. In addition to this, the maths behind a piece plays a very important role, as it relates to the narrative of the piece. All these variables aid the construction of the painting's identity, without copying the reference source.


Latiya Nanton, 2018


MN: In your project ‘The Shape of Us’, you have deconstructed and repurposed/recomposed flags, which act as complex and often conflicting symbols of history, identity, trauma and pride. How does interacting with symbols that carry this much weight and/or power affect your work? 


LN: By deconstructing symbols that already have weight, I am deconstructing the meaning of what that symbol means, including the colours and the forms. Then when I reconstruct, I am taking into account what I have learnt. My aim is to remove the politics and negatives from the form but keep the positivity and soul of it.



MN: ‘The Shape of Us’ deconstructs and rearranges the flag of every country in the world. How does your process or experience differ depending on the flag you are working with? You have said your heritage is a focal point in your practice. 


LN: My heritage is usually the focal point yes, but when dealing with de-construction on a larger scale, I see every image individually. Then the forms and the colour become my focal point. When I sketch the supposed new form, I try not to study the existing form to closely as I want my instincts to guide the new creation.  


Latiya Nanton, 2020


MN: Where do you want to take your exploration of geometrics and colour next? 


LN: The next place I want to take my exploration of geometrics is creating my own geometric language. There has not been much research into this a yet, but I know this is where I want to go next.


HOSTED BY MILLIE NORMAN