Lydia Merrett lives and works between London, Manchester and the South of France. She graduated in 2023 from Slade School of Fine Art with Distinction, alongside winning the coveted Almacantar Studio Award. She has exhibited within the UK and has her first international solo presentation in early 2024, taking place in Seoul, South Korea. In her work Lydia captures the essence of motion and dedication on canvas, offering viewers a glimpse into a realm where stillness and movement join together. We were delighted to speak to her and get an insight into her unique practice. Enjoy!

Hi Lydia, thanks so much for speaking to us, firstly I’m aware it’s a common question but I think people are always interested to know. What inspired you to become an artist?

Since I was a young child I have wanted to be an artist. I remember watching my older sister do her art homework and I was mesmerised by the materials and processes of making art, in particular working with painting and drawing materials. I started to draw in a serious way from a young age, obsessively copying animals such as horses out of picture books, repeatedly trying to get the proportions correct. My family would buy me water colour pencils and picture books for my birthday and Christmas presents to work from. It’s quite strange now I look back and think about how serious and committed I was to drawing from the age of about 8 years old!

I continue to be thrilled by the process of making art and developing a relationship with the materials I use and the rhythms of the studio. I can’t imagine not sustaining an artistic practice in some capacity throughout my life.

Your paintings have such a distinctive aesthetic. Could you share insights into the evolution of your artistic style over time and shed light on the creative process that led to the development of this unique visual language?

My work is rooted in exploring experiences of womanhood and the paintings are always made from my personal experiences and interests. During my MFA I decided to explore my passion outside of art which is women in sport and more specifically long distanced running. I am really fascinated by the mental resilience, stamina and determination that is required to be an endurance athlete and I started to draw similarities between the traits needed to take part in these sports and the traits needed to peruse a career as an artist.

I find this parallel really exciting, and these ideas were the bases of the works I showed for my degree show last summer at the Slade School of Fine Art. My time on the Master’s programme gave me the confidence to really question what my artistic interests are and how these could materialise through the work. Perusing my passion for endurance sport and womanhood has enabled me to develop my visual language. My research has diversified since the graduate show last summer, however my interest in endurance sport remains a key influence in my work and something I imagine I will return to and keep exploring throughout my career.

Your artwork explores the boundaries between stillness and movement. How do you strike a balance between freezing a moment in time and conveying the dynamic energy of long-distance running?

For me, paint is the most wonderful, pliable material which continually energises me. I have established a variety of painting techniques to convey a sense of movement, blurring and shifting. I have taught myself these techniques through being fascinated by other artists handling of paint and through studying paintings from history through to present day. In my opinion, painting education is hugely based on looking at the work of others and trying to figure out the process behind the painting.

My paintings bounce between the motif of sports people and catching people lost in an action synonymous with everyday life. Clothing is used as an important motif within my work, crucially the act of getting dressed. Activity is always present within my work, the figure is getting ready for the day, of a mid fielder has swung their leg back in anticipation for striking the ball into the net... whatever it is I am painting, I want there to be a sense of speed, energy and exhilaration within the canvas. I find this vibration, achieved through colour, mark and layering, tantalising.

At the heart of your practice is your dedication to drawing. Could you talk us through why this is a fundamental part of your creative process?

As I said earlier, I have drawn for most of my life and now I draw every morning as part of my routine in the studio as a way of warming up and focusing my mind before painting. I work with a broad range of images and references, and I filter all of these sources through the act of drawing. I will repeat a motif over and over again through quick graphite drawings, simplifying the information down until I get to a line drawing which feels like it holds a tension and fluidity, from here I will start painting. If the painting I am planning is particularly large scale I will do an interim drawing, too scale in graphite powder and water to work out the proportions and how the figures sit in the space before moving onto canvas. Once I am painting, I want to know that I have the drawing in my hand and body, the painting will undoubtably shift and morph, however, the drawing needs to be the anchor on which the variables can dance.

In what ways do you hope your audience connects with or interprets the visual metaphors present in your artwork, particularly concerning the shared yet isolating experience of individualistic sports?

I believe representation is fundamentally important. The possibility that my paintings of women in sport inspire a young person to be active or to peruse their dreams is one of the reasons I have developed a passion for this subject matter. Sport hasn’t been heavily represented in art, but within my work I want to begin to close that gap. Through painting women being active, in control and taking up space, I hope to create paintings which speak to womanhood while being celebratory and joyful.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us! Can you tell us whats on the cards for you next? Have you any upcoming projects you can share with us that our audience can look out for?

I currently have my first international solo show in Seoul, South Korea with LKIF Gallery. The show comprises of six paintings, three drawings and a monotype. It has been a really busy few months since graduating from my Master's, I have had a solo Voices presentation with Unit London, which you can still view online via the Unit London website and my show in Seoul opened earlier this month. I am looking forward to a few weeks of downtime before getting back into the studio to experiment and keep developing my work.

Thank you so much for talking to me!

Be sure to check more of Lydia's amazing work on her website and be sure to follow her on Instagram