Simpson has explored varieties of abstraction since the early 1950s, enjoying acknowledgement and success in the art world. In 1963 he was chosen by New York’s Museum of Modern Art curator, Dorothy Miller, to appear in what turned out to be the last in her legendary series of group shows of contemporary American art. (Reinhardt was another painter included.) And in 1964 he appeared in Clement Greenberg’s famous exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. At that time Simpson painted landscape-derived abstractions and, in the 70s, he practiced a reductive but relational mode of abstraction. But with his discovery of a new acrylic medium in 1987, he was able to embrace finally and successfully the monochrome’s radicality.
Simpson uses an acrylic paint with interference properties. The paint is composed of titanium dioxide electronically coated with mica particles. Simpson tends to mix complementaries, but admits that orange and blue also work together well. He also mixes black acrylic with the interference pigments, finding that a little bit of black helps the colour jump out. Interference pigments cause optical effects that are comparable to iridescence. When you look at the painting from one angle, you receive one set of colour sensations. When you shift your position, you get another. As you move back and forth in front of the canvas – and the paintings make you want to do so – the experience changes. The change of light also dramatically affects the optical experience, and the play of light across the canvas surface is subtly kinetic.