The Peasant Paints: expanding painting decolonially through planting and pigment-making

Holmwood, Sigrid Frida. 2021. The Peasant Paints: expanding painting decolonially through planting and pigment-making. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My research proposes to expand painting by addressing its materiality and circulation through the relationship between painting and the figure of the peasant. I use the term peasant-painting to move between paintings-of-peasants and peasants-that-paint, countering dominant narratives of Western art history and re-appropriating the peasant as a transnational figure. I propose painting as a minor practice, following Deleuze and Guattari’s call for a minor literature and Chakrabarty’s call for attention to minor histories and subaltern pasts. It does not seek to construct an autonomous subject out of the peasant, but rather to disclose the political relationships embedded in the trajectory of Western European painting that were complicit in the construction of the modern self. It is therefore a decolonial move, as the Western European bourgeois tradition will be found to be just one provincial occurrence among many.

The practice-based element of the thesis is centered on the construction of a pigment garden in Almeria, Spain. Painting is expanded into the field of cultivation, and the performance of pigment-making, as well as the paintings themselves. The choice of planting and re-appropriation of pigment-making technologies traces the colonial relationship between Spain and the Americas. My retrieval of the technology of Mayan blue, a pigment recently rediscovered after being ‘lost’ during the early colonial period, and my re-adaption of the recipe for use with European woad will be elaborated in the written thesis. I will use it to explore the links between the inward and outward coloniality of Western modernity, and its suppression of other knowledges, (de Sousa Santos) and other genres of humanity (Weheliye, Viveiros de Castro). I will propose re-enactment (conceived as experimental archaeology, rather than spectacle) as a possible strategy for the generation of alternative modes of painting practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


painting; expanded painting; peasants; coloniality; pigments; plant dyes; Maya blue; reenactment; indigo; woad

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 May 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Jul 2021 12:59

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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