Saturday, May 23, 2015


Where are you from

Where do you reside?

Brighton, UK
What do you like most about where you live? I love the sea and the bright days. There are lots of arts and community things going on. It’s got beautiful architecture too.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born in England.  When I was an infant my parents moved back to the very beautiful South Western Coast of Ireland and my brother was born there. We lived on a rugged peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf Stream which created a microclimate for beautiful, unusual plants. I loved it there and moved back to that house with my friends as a teenager. My father was a plasterer. We had little money but my mum was an artist and loved to take us to beautiful countryside and stately homes and galleries. My father was a troubled man who brought a great deal of chaos home. My parents were hippies and idealists, so we ate organic, listened to wonderful music, played instruments and enjoyed the countryside. Art and music are really highly valued by my whole family.

What is your educational background?

My family are auto-didactic and have been a major influence. I dropped out of school early. I returned in my late teens and was then absolutely hooked.
I love to study. If I had the money I would continue now. I have a degree in Art History of Africa and Asia and did Art Foundation Studies at Chelsea Art School and began my Fine Art degree at Central St Martins.
My grandfather was born in the 30’s into abject poverty, he lived through the second world war and had had only a few years of school education. He has taught himself all about history, Italian language and knows so much about Opera. He followed Mariah Callas around as a teenager and says he saw her over 40 times.
My Uncle is a classical composer, a free jazz composer and had commercial success with intelligent drum n bass in the 90’s as Spring Heel Jack.
My grandmother would drive the whole family to my uncle’s gigs and we would all go raving. We had a great deal of dysfunction in our family and no money to speak of but also a great deal of love for music and art.

When did you decide that you were an artist?

I was working for Tom Morris at Battersea Arts Centre, it was a good job, but he recognised that I lacked interest and used to ask me about what it was I really wanted to do. That got me thinking.
I started to attend life drawing classes and a part time foundation when I was 28. I hadn’t considered myself to have any ability before then. When I first painted in oils I realised that it was something that I could do forever, so fascinating so fulfilling and challenging.

Who has influenced you as an artist? 

My family have been a huge influence on me, they love theatre, film , art, music . From a very young age I have been exposed to the avant-garde by my family.  We have grown up with very little money in social housing but with a real passion for music and the arts.

Do you have a favorite artist ?

I love Marlene Dumas, Daniel Richter, Strinberg, Joni Mitchell, Odilon Redon, Vuillard, Rembrandt, Cornelia Parker, Peter Doig and Jan Svankmayer

What music do you listen to inspire you?

At the moment I am painting to two songs on a loop ’60 seconds’ by Spring Heel Jack (my uncles music) and ‘A limit to your Love’ the cover of Feist by James Blake

What is your favourite medium and why?

Oil Paint – strength of pigment, it’s vivacity – the stains washes and gloss. The fact that it can be moved about. The way it dries and yet still looks liquid.

When did you realize you couldn't live without art?

When I had my kids and was trying to just be the ever present mum and put their needs first and realised I was a bit of a glum mum because I was neglecting my own needs. When I paint regularly maybe once or twice a week, my mood is lifted enormously.

Do you have a studio? Where is it?

Yes, it is in what was once our bedroom. We moved into the kids’ room and now I have somewhere to work. I realised one day that it was easier for me to accept that I wasn’t making it out of the house.

What inspires your work? 

 Colour, emotional inquiry, and the tension between hiding and revealing things.

How often are you in the studio? 

About twice a week.

Can you tell us a little about your art making process?

I have favourite paints because of the way they stain the canvas. Indian yellow is a favourite, as is cadmium red, quinadrone red, pthalo blue and rose dore. I often use an image as a starting point, often a photo. Usually the image triggers an emotional response in me, like my Muffa series based in sketches of my mum and her life long struggle with asthma and sensitivity to mould. Or my wedding series based on photos taken when I attended a traditional Turkish wedding of a man I knew who had been having a relationship with a friend of mine and his arranged marriage to a 15 year old girl from the village. I am often making inquiries into mixed feelings that I have about things.

Are you working on anything in particular right now? 

Yes. Right now I am working on a painting of some outdoor swimmers. It’s a great photo and I was attracted by the composition, so it’s not as emotionally driven as my work often is. It’s interesting as I am exploring what it is that helps me to carry a painting forward and make decisions.

What is your support network like as an artist?

I know many artist mums. I have found facebook has helped me to connect with women artists around the world. Mary Trunk’s film Lost In Living was a huge find for me, it helped me to really think about myself and how  I might allow myself to take time to make work again. I organised an artists’ book project recently with 19 women around the world. We each made books and gave them a theme and then posted them in a big circuit. It was a great way to feel connected and to make art which could fit around the needs of the family.

Do you feel that women in the arts are treated fairly- do you have any thoughts on that?

Well as women our identities are all tied up with social convention.
It’s simple maths to recognise that if women aren’t treated equally and are paid less in general then of course the same will be true of art. I studied Art History and of course it was dominated by male characters both in the art making and the criticism and scholarly writings, although most of the students were female.
I recently looked at The BP National Portrait Prize. The work was outstanding. All of the 5 winners were men. I imagined that one of the winners had painted one of my paintings and immediately I had a different sense of what my painting was. A friend said that all painting competitions should be anonymous for that very reason, she’s a writer and she said that many writing prizes are anonymous for that very reason.

Do you feel that mother artists are taken seriously in the art world?

I certainly haven’t found any funding to help to me to continue my practice since I’ve had children. I haven’t found a studio for me to work in with a crèche. I don’t feel that there are any support structures in place to help me as a mother and an artist to keep working and in that way I feel like I’ve just fallen off the map. Many of my favourite painters are men simply because that is the work that I have had access to and which hangs in the galleries.

When did you become a mother? 
When I was 34

How many children do you have?

How has having children influenced your work?
I am less fearful. I am braver. I take more risks. I work harder. Perhaps giving birth has stripped away some of the inhibitions and shame of girlhood.

How do you manage balancing both worlds?

It is very tricky, sometimes I may be engrossed in a painting and really knowing where it should head, I get distracted and called away, sometimes for days and I’ve lost my thread. I don’t have the time to get all of my visual ideas down and very often I don’t have enough money to buy materials and often don’t have the canvasses I need. I am the one who drops everything else when the children are sick, this is my choice, I want to be there for my children when they need me.

Has being an artist influenced your children?

Perhaps. I organized an exhibition a couple of years ago and my eldest had hand written notes to his class mates and teacher inviting them along. He seemed to be very proud. He will often say, we don’t have much money mum, but we are happy.

Do you have any advice for other mother artists on balancing being an artist and mother?

Do what you can, if you feel yourself burning out, take a rest. Make friends with other mums who are artists. Make a space for yourself to make the work you need to, don’t sacrifice everything, remember your artist self will not abide being suffocated or stifled! We need to see to be seen and to be reflected in popular culture in order to build our identities and claim a space for ourselves.

From a business aspect - what have you learned about making a profit from your work - do you have any advice?

Recently I have started to sell digital prints of my large oil paintings and people are really responding well. I am in the process of fixing up a website for myself too.
I do find that it is often friends who like my art and want to buy it and I initially found myself talking them out of it as I felt uncomfortable about accepting money. However, I have now figured out a straight forward discount for friends. I really need to earn a living and if I can do so from my art, that would be amazing, that is the direction I am heading in.

What do you want to be remembered for as an artist?

I would like people to find my paintings emotionally stimulating. I would like them to enjoy looking at my work and for my work to trigger questions and feelings for them.

To learn more - please check out the following:

* All photos belong to and were submitted by the artist.