At Cass Art we continue to support the next generation of artists through various prizes, awards and opportunities. We understand how much stability in working space can help aid an artist’s progression. Each year Cass Art, in partnership with Brighton University and Phoenix Brighton Studio sponsors a year-long studio space for a graduating student at the University of Brighton. We caught up with winner Hattie Malcomson so find out how she's been getting on in a very different year...
Hi Hattie! It’s great to catch up. Firstly, another big congratulations to you on winning the Cass Art Phoenix Studio Award!
How did you start your creative journey, was painting always the medium that you found drawn to?
I always used to draw and have always wanted to do something creative. There was a long time as a child that I wanted to be a fashion designer but as I carried on with art in education it was the painting that I really stuck with and what I loved. It was always the subject I knew I wouldn’t drop but for a long time I didn’t really consider a career in it as in my mind at the time it was unachievable. I almost feel like I fell into painting by just going with the flow and doing what I enjoyed in the moment without thinking too much about it. As time went on I started to love it more and more and I realised that it’s the painting I want to keep in my life and now I am at the beginning of trying to make it work as a career! I definitely want to experiment with more materials like ceramics and printing at some point, but for now it is the painting that I am loving.
Your Fine Art BA Degree Show paintings were an impressive, bold and ferocious! With your use of stark colour, texture and intense female figures. Could you talk us through your work?
My paintings present strong female characters in their own spaces, fully aware of the viewers presence. They want you to look at them, but it is on their terms and they are in control. Throughout art history, women have been presented to be passive objects. I am trying to convey a reclamation of the representation of women in art, whilst often making references to art history and the male gaze. I am interested in testing the aesthetic boundaries of taste and creating contradicting feelings of attraction and repulsion in the viewer through intense colour, heavy impasto and seductive yet ugly characters. I want to create either a feeling of awkwardness and discomfort in the viewer, mainly the male gaze or a feeling of empowerment in some, such as women.
How has your work developed since graduating from University?
I am definitely putting more care and time into each painting, they are taking me a lot longer! I have added more detail to parts of them in more thinned oil to contrast with the expressive and thick brushmarks of the characters. I am also more attentive to the bodies I am painting and the characters are more defined than before.
You’ve been in your studio for about 5 months now. How are you finding the experience?
It’s been amazing! I feel so lucky to have a studio to myself just out of leaving university. There have been a few covid related reasons stopping me from coming in as much as I would like but I really cherish the time I am in there and make the most of it.
If I was to go delving in your studio what materials would I find? Are there any particular brands you return to?
Lots and lots of oil paint and acrylic paint. I also have various mediums for different things, my absolute necessity is liquin oleopasto for heavy impasto! Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton are my two most used brands.
How have you maintained your practice during such a tumultuous year?
At times it has been a struggle and there has been a few obstacles but it has been great to have something to focus on. I have just tried to work very hard and come to the studio as much as possible. I think my year would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the studio.
Covid has had a devastating impact on us all, and many have found solace by turning to creativity. Some picking up tools for the first time and others after many years of being away. Have you found comfort in your creative process during the past year?
Definitely. Having somewhere I can go to which is out of the house to focus on being creative is great and it takes my mind off things. I think having a creative project is such a good way of distracting you from hard times.
And for those that are struggling to keep focussed on their work – do you have any tips?
Be disciplined with it. Set a time to do the work, set a realistic plan for what you can do that day and fully concentrate on it (to hopefully achieve that flow state!) and get it done. You will feel proud of yourself if you get it done but don’t put pressure on yourself to be super productive right away, start with smaller tasks then gradually increase the hours you are working each day. Other things that helps me stay focused is changing up what I’m listening to from music to podcasts when I start to get a bit tired of what I am doing, or going for a walk.
Finally – when we’re finally able to go out and about again, what creative experience are you most looking forward to?
Going to art galleries! I miss going to them so much.