Hay Festival Digital Article of Interest No.5
10 QUESTIONS TO FREYA PURDUE in a written interview with Bartosz Cichowski, 2018
BC: Who or what is the biggest inspiration for your art?
FP: In painting my inspiration over the years, has come from many wonderful painters, past and present from almost every known culture across the world. From the beginning I had a love of colour field paintings and the amazing power that large fields of painted colour can have on the human psyche. There are so many other aspects to painting that I have been inspired by and there seems to be no end to the levels of invention that can be reached for, that truly inspires me. The resonance and energy of Indian and Persian miniature painting has always enthralled me and I’ve always loved Egyptian paintings and carvings. Chinese painting with its gentle poetry and emphasis on beauty and subtlety of life is also an inspiration. I have always been inspired by alchemy and the field of transformation and discovery that this opens up in creative thinking as well as the historical process and its links with the drawings and illustrations by Robert Fludd, Paracelsus and others.
BC: Please tell us more about your working process and the way you approach new artworks
FP: Ideas for my paintings gradually coagulate as I read and go about my daily life. When I have the atmosphere or connecting energy in my mind about a single painting or a set of work, that’s when I get working on new paintings. Sometimes I start a new series before I have completed other work and this slows the resolution of paintings down so I tend to have a lot of work in progress. When I start the process of painting I usually begin with either a colour wash or by drawing on the canvas with paint, it depends on what kind of painting I am aiming for. I could say that its intuitive but I also have a clear sense of direction for each painting. In each painting I am looking for something different something that I haven’t seen before. The time a painting takes to complete can vary significantly, sometimes a week or two and sometimes it can take a long time to resolve so it can hang around in the studio for months and even years.
BC: What motivates you the most in your artistic journey?
FP: I am motivated by a love of the creative magic in painting. Looking at great paintings and the paintings other artists have achieved always motivates me to expand my approach and the ambition for my own work.
BC: Who or what has recently impressed you?
FP: Brice Marden’s Terre Vert paintings at Gagosian London and Roger Ackling’s exhibition Brought to Light at Annely Juda Fine Art
BC: Which artist, dead or alive, would you want to have a beer with?
FP: Bill Viola
BC: How do you spend your free time besides artistic work?
FP: I live a simple life, I love walking, growing plants, music, and studying philosophy and learning about the new discoveries in science and medicine.
BC: Do you have any dream projects in mind that you would like to do in the future?
FP: Yes, I would love to put on a massive solo show, in a beautiful place using a number of rooms so that I could create different energies in each room with my work, a kind of controlled but surprising experience. The Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid is always in my mind when I think of this – its my dream place to show.
BC: Many of your artworks focus on intertwining lines. What is the significance of lines in your paintings?
FP: Painting is all about language and there are so many possibilities to draw from. Geometry is essential in paintings it is the hidden structure behind or within visual images and is one of the components that govern their appeal or not to the viewer. Some painters use geometry in an explicit way whilst other embed it. I think a lot about the sound of the geometry in a painting, so the use of a grid may happen to create a kind of hum and ritual aspect to the painting. The structure within a painting creates the dynamic force so each painting has its own particular geometry and form.
BC: The “Shrine” series of paintings stands out with their mysterious atmosphere and lack of defined shapes. Can you tell us more about these artworks?
FP: The shrine series of 4 paintings are part of a series of 18 and were shown all together in 2014. Each painting in that series was based on different types of shrine and in particular the series of 4 paintings called ‘Shrine’ were based on Indian shrines from my experience of seeing them and experiencing their presence when I was in India for a few months in 1991.
BC: “When there is no more” appears to share certain characteristics with the work of Agnes Martin. Is it a pure coincidence or did she really influence your creative process?
FP: Agnes Martin has always been an inspiration to me and thus she has always been a background influence. The purity of her intention in ‘being’ and living a deeply spiritual life gives her work an honest reality which I admire.The explanation for this painting goes something like this: ‘When there is no more’
This painting began with considerations regarding the people of Yemen who have been suffering from the ravages of war over an extended period. It is dedicated to those whose family’s who are suffering and starving and whose children are dying, who are forced to live on the very edge of life. For those who have travelled beyond all levels of endurance and whose lives are stretched to the very limits. Where the boundary between the known and unknown is reached, where there is nothing but the baron land of desertion, emptiness, and sorrow. The light within the human spirit still burns and reaching into the deeps it is still just possible to draw breath. All that remains visible are the lines that are incidents of experience, a cordon on the edge of safety. Beyond the enclosure the light bleaches out the world, caught on the fence is the debris of life, distinct, material but without capacity to satiate desire. However, there is light and breath nonetheless.
When there is no more, 2018, Oil on canvas, 193cm x 321cm
POV ON PAPER in association with and supporting the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts 2020