Interview with Helen Booth

Artist Helen Booth studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art in London in the late 80’s and since has gone on to win the Pollock Krasner Award for Painting and exhibited all over the world, including in cities such as New York, London, Hamburg and Edinburgh. SOON met with the artist to talk about how moving to rural West Wales effected the way she works and about the inspiration behind her paintings…

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Introduce yourself and your work…
I’m a painter who lives in rural west Wales. I have a wonderful studio in an old woollen mill about 30 mins from Cardigan Bay. My work is always in oil. I buy more Titanium White than any other colour and I never clean my brushes (tut tut)

What made you move from London to rural West Wales?
We saw an advert in Artist’s Newsletter – It simply stated “Beautiful old woollen mill in South West Wales, Change Your Life!” And so we did!

Has moving effected your work/ the way you work?
Yes, so much. I moved from Peckham in London in 1996 and the transition from Urban to Rural effected my work. I love the flat light in Wales, the silvery sombre tones really suits my painting and the way it flattens the landscape. I find the grey damp days in the Winter so inspiring.. I’m not that good in the heat.

Do you find yourself getting more inspiration from people or places?
That’s a hard question. My work centres on the emotional connections that I have to people but it uses the landscape for inspiration in terms of palette. My recent work is all about Love and Loss and my relationships, but in the painterly tones that you can find walking or in the colours of the pebbles and stones on the beaches.

Where do you work best? 
In my studio – alone – listening to audiobooks on my iPhone. I can’t work with other people around at all, I love the solitude. I miss my studio so much if I get bogged down in my office.

If you could only paint using one colour for the rest of your life what colour would you choose?
I know they are actually not colours but definitely black or possibly white. Actually, that would depend on what I’m painting on. However, if I get a pencil too then white.

It’s rare for people to fully commit to a career in the Arts. What’s the hardest thing about being a full-time artist today? What would be your advice to a young artist starting out in the industry?
Art is not a lucrative profession in terms of financial gains, but it is the most incredible way to spend your life. It has been incredibly challenging, especially now with Brexit; where lots of small galleries are closing because people are nervous and not buying original works of art. Making money out of something that you love to do is hard, but I wouldn’t change my life and I couldn’t if I am to remain true to myself. I’ve just always had to make things; my hands are never idle. Art is one of the most important parts of life, it feeds everything that is good. If you have a creative impulse, then you must trust it. My two pieces of advice to young artists would be to nurture your connections and to understand that rejection is not personal. I have had so many rejections in my career, but now I know it’s about taste and how your work sits alongside other work. Oh, and also make things happen for yourself. If you can’t get a gallery, then turn your house into a gallery space and invite people to come see.

What’s your favourite painting of all time? 
One of the best exhibitions I have ever seen was the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern. I also saw a smaller exhibition of his in Edinburgh. Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair Part I (1985) is probably one of my favourite paintings ever to have been created. I also love the paler works by Peter Doig, Blotter 1993 is just so beautiful. I would find it hard to choose between these two paintings if I were to be offered one as a present!

Which painting are you most proud of?
It’s difficult to say which of my works I am happiest with, but I suppose it would have to be “A Conversation With Myself”. Its one of my most recent paintings, very small and stripped back down to a very simple structure. It makes me feel peaceful and it will be one of the works that I would be very reluctant to part with.

What’s your Something Out Of Nothing? One of life’s simple pleasures you just can’t get enough of…
Spending time with my daughters, who are both now away at University.

To see more of Helen’s work you can head over to her WEBSITE, or follow her on INSTAGRAM

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Young and Creative: Hattie Morrison

This will be the first of many for ‘The Young and Creative Series’- a series focusing on, and celebrating, up-and-coming working artists under the age of 23. Since the late nineties, publicity and general media coverage of the British art scene has revolved around a small group of artists (often referred to as the Young British Artists or Y.B.A’s). Though this praise is often well deserved, SOON wants to provide a platform for some new young artists. Hattie Morrison is the first to be featured, and will be followed by many others to come.

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Introduce yourself and your work.

I am a soon-to-be twenty year old artist and writer from South Wales currently studying Fine Art at The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. I am a film-maker, writer, painter and installation artist, mainly interested in ephemerality and attempting to capture the best, fleeting moments that seem to fly by- Henri Cartier-Bresson called this the “decisive moment”. I use my work as a tool to try and lengthen these moments out because I’m scared of their inevitable death, really. I think the fact that memories fade is one of the saddest things about life. I’m the sort of person that plays the same song over and over until it sounds completely different and I find parts of it that I never noticed before. I try to do this with my art too- make and make and make art until I find out something new about myself or life.

How long have you been making art?
I sound like a classic pretentious artist but because my entire close family is full of artists, I feel like there was never really an artistic debut for me- I just popped out and have kind of been making things since. I do remember though, when I realised that I wanted to be an artist properly. I was going through a lazy time at school, and my grades were falling and I was focusing more on being one of the class clowns than I was on succeeding. That year my Dad took me to see Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room at the Tate Modern. As soon as I walked into that room I knew I needed to leave my tiny village in Wales and try to make art that affects people in the way that that art installation made me feel- it was a kind of like I had walked into space (all the lights look like tiny stars that stretch out forever and ever) and realised that the world was so big and full of possibilities.

Describe your work in three words.
That is difficult.

Describe the way you work in three words.
Sporadic, intense, late.

What’s your favourite colour?
I love green and pink, but only really when they are together.

How long do you spend on each piece of work?
It completely depends on when I feel satisfied – I have pieces of work that have been brewing in my mind for nearly a decade now, and others that take me a couple of hours. Sometimes coming up with and perfecting an idea is the part that takes the longest time, and materialising it takes nearly no-time at all. I had an idea for a film that I was sitting on for about three months and it took a day to film, edit and export.

What’s your favourite environment to work in?
I used to love painting with people I care a lot about sitting next to me. When I now look at the paintings I did last year I see them as an absorption of the sort of atmosphere and emotions I was surrounded by at the time. With that in mind I always try to reflect my current environment in my work, and so if I’m making work about the effect that solitude has on me, I try to work alone. In general though, the physical environment is usually a complete mess, with bowls of cereal, empty mugs, dried up paint scattered around- and music constantly playing.

Who inspires you?
Every single person that I have ever loved and every single person I have ever lost. Music is a massive source of inspiration for me- I always listen to a wide range of different types of music when I’m working, and so Bob Dylan, Erkin Koray, The Corries, Joni Mitchell and The Electric Light Orchestra kind of act like inspiration taps for me- if I put a song on by any of those musicians, ideas start coming at me from all directions. My parents inspire me as well. They are both artists and remind me every day through their own careers in the arts to never give up and to always push on because that’s when people often make the best art. My dad says that we are in the “emotion business”.

What’s your favourite piece of work you’ve ever made?
I recently wrote a poetry book and self published it which I feel very proud of for many reasons- I feel as though it’s my most raw work to date and the fact that I am scared to show it to people makes it my favourite- it feels like I have put some white card and a soft back cover over myself at my most vulnerable and I’m offering it out to the world to read and scrutinise. I think the book is the most emotional piece I’ve ever created and for a while I had 100 copies of it sitting in my room- I couldn’t even look at them, they made me feel too strongly.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time with your work?
I’d like to still be with my work in 10 years time- I hope I am still a working artist! If that’s the case, and I am happy with the work I am making in general, I’ll be content (hopefully).

What’s your ‘Something Out Of Nothing’? One of life’s simple pleasures that you absolutely love…
My whole artistic practice is based on the tiny fleeting moments that pass us by so I find this really difficult to decide on just one. I’ll list the ones that I can think of right now-
-The sound that frost on grass makes under shoes late at night or early in the morning.
-The way that the cobbles in Oxford feel like a rocky beach under your feet if you’re walking in the dark.
-When you are walking away from someone and look back because you miss their face already and they look back at exactly the same moment.
-Pulling masking tape away from a painting to reveal a satisfying straight line.

Hattie’s “I Will Write and Write and Write Until Everything Is Right Again” is in the process of publication and will be available to buy at the launch of Issue Two in June, as well as in select galleries across the United Kingdom.

Hattie’s Instagram