About the artist:
Helen Thomas' paintings are powerfully personal and yet as universal as the musical chord. These paintings build upon the experiences of the past rather than reject them. Using the oswald color sphere introduced to her by Ben Cunningham at the art students league in her series of painting, the artist explores the illusion of transparency and motion. Through the use of properly related colors, the the overlapping appears as a thin film slowly revolving shapes in motiom. The Unusual combinations glow as each color reinforces the other in harmony and mood. The tension created results in defuintie relation, adding to the synergistic effects of her work. From Applications of the Ostwald Color System, by Helen Thomas: I have often pointed out to my private students and to my artist colleagues that one should not label certain colors 'muddy' when they are on a palette or on a canvas. A color will seem 'muddy' only because it is seen in an inappropriate context. I, therefore, was delighted to read in M. E. Chevreul's book Eugène Delacroix's words: 'Give me mud and I will make the skin of a Venus if you will allow me to surround it as I wish' [1, p. 33]. In reflecting over Western painting since the turn of the century, particularly with reference to the use of color, I feel that Abstract Expressionism left an unfortunate legacy: a rather limited palette resulting from an unpremeditated selection of color. But color awareness and sensitivity in painting can be expanded through practice. Joseph Albers discusses this in depth in his book, Interaction of Color . Contrary to his opinion, however, I feel that a color classification system should be studied and applied in conjunction with an artist's own experiments. I have not been exclusively a colorist. When I attended The Philadelphia College of Art, an early emphasis was placed on drawing technique and on a knowledge of the human anatomy, a type of training that I endorse heartily. I drew for two years, in a course consisting of six hours per day and four days per week. On the fifth day I was introduced to allied areas; then color was explained but superficially. My art education continued at the Art Students' League in New York City. It was there while studying under Sidney Gross that I changed from representational painting to the style of Abstract Expressionism. The use of a quick drying mixture of a medium with oil paint enabled me to work swiftly and to employ color impulsively. This manner of painting was exhilarating for me, but I felt the need to exercise more control in employing color. Nevertheless, in Gross's class I did come to realize that the color of a layer of paint can be different in different surroundings. The color of paint on my palette was often different after it was applied on canvas. And, when Gross lectured on simultaneous contrast, using the color plates from Albers' book, I learned the reason. Later I found that the elucidation of the phenomenon was one of the many contributions to the knowledge of color made by Chevreul In 1967 Gross left the Art Students' League teaching staff and Ben Cunningham took his place. From the first class meeting, I heard Cunningham stress that there were no rigid rules on the use of colors in painting. I learned, in particular, about the extensive work in color done in Germany during the early years of this Century by Wilhelm Ostwald, Nobel Prize Laureate in chemistry, work aptly typefied by his words Harmonie and Ordnung (harmony and order). This was my introduction to the Ostwald color solid, and color soon became the major aspect in my painting. II. Ostwald introduced a 3-dimensional classification System for surface colors . This System is given by a geometrical array of points in 3-dimensional coordinates, each point representing a different color. The spatial array has the form of a double cone and is what is meant by the term Ostwald color solid. The double cone consists of two identical cones having a common circular base, whose perimeter is the equator; it is oriented so that one apex (the north pole) points upwards and the other (the south pole) points downward. The Color Harmony Manual of Jacobson, Granville and Foss , which is well known, contains a set of color samples whose selection was based on Ostwald's system and which are assigned locations in the color solid. The color white is assigned the Position at the north pole and the color black at the south pole. If one divides the double cone into two naives by a vertical plane passing from the north pole to the south pole along the vertical axis and through two opposite points on the equator to which complementary colors are assigned, one exposes a diamond-shaped cross section like that shown in Fig. 1 (left). The notations shown are those of Ostwald [3, pp. 36-39]; they are employed in the Color Harmony Manual. Here a designates white at the north pole and p designates black at the south pole. Six neutral grays (c, e, g, i, l, n), with increasing amounts of black and decreasing amounts of white, are assigned to six equally spaced intermediate points. The vertical axis of the double cone passing from a to p is called the gray axis (dashed line). The gray axis divides the cross section shown in Fig. 1 (left) into two identical triangles. The array of points defines 24 such triangles in the color solid. All the colors (except white, black and the neutral grays) assigned to points in a triangle have the same hue. In each triangle the color of maximum purity is designated by pa shown at an apex (Fig. 1, left). While it is important to remember that the double cone is a geometric solid, it is helpful to imagine it as a form consisting of 24 equally spaced triangular vanes joined to the vertical gray axis. The model made by the Ostwald laboratory, illustrated in Ref. 3, p. 35, shows the vane structure. Fig. 1 (left) shows two opposing triangles joined on the vertical axis, representing one set of two complementary colors joined by the neutral grays. The fact that the colors represented by points in one triangle possess the same hue is the second salient feature. Points along the upper side of a triangle connecting the points for white and the pa-color represent mixtures of the two colors. Similarly, points on the lower side represent mixtures of black and the pa-color. Along either side, the closer a point is to the pa-color location, the higher is the purity of the color represented. Points within a triangle represent mixtures of white, black and the pa-color Fig. 1 (left). Vertical lines passed through points represent series of colors in which both the purity and the hue are held constant but in which the white content increases and the black content decreases in progressing upward from one point to the next. Such a series is called a shadow series, which is of use to painters, for example in depicting shading seen on curved uniformly colored surfaces. The constancy of both hue and purity in the shadow series is the third significant feature.
Helen Thomas' paintings are powerfully personal and yet as universal as the musical chord. These paintings build upon the experiences of the past rather than reject them. Using the oswald color sphere introduced to her by Ben Cunningham at the art