A chaotic childhood, shaped by my wonderful but mentally disabled sister, created a desire to understand people and their emotions. At the age of three I held onto my sister, who was falling down the stairs during an epileptic fit, and called for our mother. At the age of four, my sister twice pushed me out of the window of the bedroom that we shared on the second floor. As I grew older, my sister remained a small child: yet before starting school, I had lived a lifetime.
Born in Luton, England in 1969, only in my thirties did I discover that art was the most powerful way to explore these ideas of why we are who we are — why we’re all different, and yet the same. I moved to The Netherlands in 1998 with my 3 young children and husband. Beginning at a local art school, I connected with the culture and language of my new home and learnt about the subject that has always fascinated me. My passion for art knew no boundaries; I studied everything possible, travelling extensively whenever I could across Europe, exploring the art world.
In 2011, I completed my first Artist in Residence at OBRAS in Portugal. I realised that if I wanted to represent an emotion accurately, then I would need to leave my comfort zone and experience something real. To tell the naked truth you sometimes have to be naked yourself! Being greatly intrigued by the painters of the 18th century I decided that I would become Ophelia.
Lying in the muddy water, deep in the Dutch landscape — so very vulnerable — was a revelation. By facing up to my own fears and subsequently feeling calmness and quietness, I found a new way to work.To emphasise the inner landscape — the importance of being alone — I added and subtracted. I emphasised a focal point, sometimes a hand, or hair. I looked deeper into what different parts of the body symbolised — an unspoken language that helps to give weight (conflict) and emotion (vulnerability) to the image. A quiet whisper well phrased can be more powerful than an angry shout.
Each piece of art that I make explores the formal elements of art in some way: space around the figure; form; balance and unity. I really enjoy combining unusual materials. Embroidery keeps coming back into my work. Spending a month sewing a gun into my work, for example, plays with the counter-ideas of adding more, but telling less. I feel that I am getting braver in this respect. I like to work on unprepared surfaces the most: linen and cotton that I stretch myself, and I prefer to paint with oils. Often in the same work I will draw with charcoal and embroider with threads. I use pastels too and have recently explored the use of marbled canvases.
I prefer oil paint because it remains workable for a long time. I work with many pauses, constantly making decisions while I am at the easel as to what will be the best way to maintain balance in the piece of art. I make the painting in one delicate layer using thicker paint, and then thinner veils to show the form and three dimensionality. I am always aware of the space that the body takes up and the composition that unifies it.
Meanwhile I discovered the aesthetic of Wabi Sabi: “The beauty of an object lies in the flaws of an object”. I use my body as such. It became an object representing a flawed beauty. These portraits are often placed in an empty room, at other times floating in a sea of abstraction. The deeper themes of my works concern those quiet and lonely moments in life, that we all feel from time to time.
When I showed my art in my first exhibitions, I was surprised and humbled to find that people that I spoke to saw moments of their own lives in my art. Even though my art was very much me, it was equally about them. I realised that by showing myself (flawed and vulnerable), my art became something far more universal. Art allowed a dialogue. I am particularly inspired by travel — especially the silence of the American or Spanish desert. I record what touches me, what attracts and that which pushes away. This is achieved by taking photographs, making films and writing in my journal, before I finally commit to a new piece of art.Perhaps an entry from my journal explains it best:
‘Tomorrow is Christmas day and we are exploring the Mojave Desert. When you slow right down and really look there is so much to see in the desert. The beauty of nature, especially when going ‘off the grid’ into random obscure areas of the planet, makes me feel so alive. That is when I feel the wonder of reality. That stirring inside that you felt when you did things for the first time when you were a child. It draws me and scares me in equal measure.
The wilderness makes me want to run outside and paint, but, then I stop … recognising that nature has already got there first. What’s more important, is how it makes me feel.’
This is when I am at my most inspired. If I could, I would travel every day — set up a studio in the rear of an RV and just go. Maybe, one day, I will…
My first exhibition led to an invitation to exhibit my work alongside another international artist at an art symposium organised by Professor Rachel Pownall, and attended by members of Sotheby’s and other prominent members of the international art community during the TEFAF in 2013. Since then I have exhibited more than twenty times; the latest being a land art exhibition along the banks of the River Geulle in Limburg, The Netherlands.
My work has also been shown in England and The United States of America, and has been published in a book in 2015: INDA 9 available from Manifest Gallery Cincinnati, Ohio, USA and Spain.