Abstract artist, tutor and entrepreneur Georgie Mason is well known for her rich, textured paintings depicting the English landscape and exploring the interconnectedness of man, art and nature. As we emerge from lockdown, we've taken a moment to catch up with Georgie to find out about her experiences of the past year, new directions in her art practice and what's next on the horizon.
Hi Georgie! Thank you for taking time to talk to us. What an 'eventful' year it’s been! Can you give us an insight into the life of a professional artist during the pandemic?
I don’t want to start off too negatively, but for me the first lockdown was a period of unproductivity and limbo, with little to no inspiration or motivation. I went to Bath to be with my Mum, not knowing how long it would be for. I was lucky that there was a room that Mum uses as a studio for me to make art in, but to be honest I was in survival mode at that point. I’d had a solo show cancelled so I had nothing to work towards, no deadlines, no-one to answer to, no work calls or human connection - but I felt the pressure to do something because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t make any money. My saving grace was the Artist Support Pledge, set up by Matthew Burroughs: a scheme whereby artists post work on instagram for no more than £200, and each time they make £1000 they pledge to buy another artist’s work for £200. Through this I sold mainly older works and made enough money to see me through those months, alongside some government support and a grant from A-N newsletter. The solo show was rearranged eventually, but I’d got out of the groove and wasn’t that happy with the collection. And it just wasn’t the same with only six people allowed in at once and no private view. So yep, not the best time for me, but happily, the darkness has transformed into light and now I’m more inspired than ever...
Looking at your profile, you have so many strings to your bow – from your studio painting practice to leading art workshops to running a business! Do you think it’s important for artists to have a number of different projects running at the same time?
It is a lot to manage, and I’m also trying to record an EP of songs to go with my next collection and write a book (!). I think it’s about knowing what works for you as an artist; for me, I need to have enough variety that I’m always interested and motivated and don’t get bored of one aspect of my work. But the flip side is being perpetually ‘on’ - it’s like whack a mole, I finish one thing and then another idea comes up. It can get overwhelming, but I’m learning to get better at accepting I can’t do everything at once. I’ve also taken the plunge and employed two studio assistants now, one day a week each. They help with social media and the business side so I have more time to be creative, and it’s made such a huge difference so far that I can’t believe I didn’t do it before.
You teach art as a form of mindfulness, through studio and online workshops. I imagine these workshops were a particularly valuable resource for people over the past year, which has been challenging to say the least. Can you tell us a bit about your experience leading them, and what the response has been like?
Sure, I decided to start a creative meditation series on Insta Live called ‘The Art of Mindfulness’ - 15 minutes in the morning for people to relax, focus, create with only a piece of paper and a pen. I wanted to help people connect with their inner world and creativity in a time where there wasn’t much inspiration to glean from external sources. I was actually very nervous at first about the idea of talking to a screen with no feedback but I got used to it and it became a really lovely way for me to connect with people too. The responses I got were heart-warming and it gave me a little semblance of purpose knowing that my workshops were making other peoples’ lives that bit easier during such a challenging time.
Your paintings are a feast for the eyes - rich and visceral layers of texture evoking the physicality of the English landscape. I would love to know more about the kinds of materials you use in your paintings and their conceptual significance. I see that you’ve incorporated materials as far-ranging as mud, raindrops and hydrated calcium sulphate.
Thank you, that’s very kind. Bringing materials from the natural world into my work is a way to bridge the perceived gap between man, nature and art, a way for me to physically make sense of the interconnectedness of all things. I like the idea of building up layers and then stripping them back, adding more, and so on. I feel it’s a real, raw process that reflects the complexity and temporality of all things in life. I want my art to be true to me, not following a set of traditional painting ‘rules’ and I like the idea that they replicate nature, eroding and breaking down organically over time.
You’ve cited British Masters such as JMW Turner and Constable as your inspirations. Why do you think the English landscape has such a strong resonance with artists?
I think it’s not so much about the landscape itself as the artists’ connection to it. I was brought up in the Suffolk countryside and the landscape around there is in my bones. Throughout my whole life the outside world has tangled with my inner landscape - rainy walks when I’m feeling low, sunny days and feeling good. It’s impossible to separate yourself from the landscape you’ve grown up with. I miss it when I’m in London which is why my heart yearns to recreate that space on the canvas. Constable said in a letter to John Fisher, ‘Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate "my careless boyhood" with all that lies on the banks of the Stour [a river in Suffolk]’, which I think points to a similar sentiment.
Have you found that your work has taken a different turn as a result of the lockdown restrictions over the last year?
Yes, absolutely. Whereas I was traveling a fair bit and painting external landscapes, I now find my main inspiration comes from the endless landscape of my inner world. The collective trauma of lockdown reopened old wounds for me and as a result I did a lot of inner work. This led me to taking an incredibly powerful three-month course, as well as some distant energy healings, where the healer is working through the fields of quantum space, without even being on the phone let alone the same room. Both experiences as well as my own meditation & yoga practise gave me a renewed connection with my own desires and power, and produced a number of very clear visions mainly featuring geese and witches, which are the basis for my new collection of works. (You’ll have to come to my next show for context..!)
Like many of us, I imagine you are looking forward to things returning to normal in the year ahead. What’s next on the horizon for you?
I don’t believe that things will return to normal, and I hope some things don’t go back to how they were. I believe that the main conversation in the post-Covid era needs to be - and will be - healing. Healing from Covid, healing the planet, healing our way of life, healing ourselves. To heal on a macro level, we first need to heal on a micro level and - death and tragedy notwithstanding - I believe the universe has presented us with an opportunity to turn inward and do just that.
As such I’m organising a show for late August around the theme of healing. It will be a group show with a mix of established and emerging artists in London. I will be showing my new collection, along with a short documentary and songs I’ve written throughout my own healing process. It will be a show about progress, celebration, hope: a baby step in what needs to be a collective stride towards a more conscious future, from this historical turning point onwards.
Shortly after the show I’ll be starting a masters in Fine Art at City & Guilds, where I’m so excited to have the opportunity to refine and develop my practise. It feels nerve-wracking to be excited about the future after the time we’ve had - but I really am. Good things are a-comin’.