Always telling a story, Oriele Steiners painting are emotionally charged and gripping. Often dreamlike situations, she depicts scenes in different shades of impossibility. Even though some of the portrayed happenings can’t be true, there is a certain sense of immediacy and humour. While the themes and subjects she explores change over time, her practice is about what it means and feels to be alive and whatever kind of baggage it may come with. She recently started the series ‘My mouth is bored,’ in which she explores her relationship with food in which she also uses humour and personal experiences. In this conversation with, we talk about why she depicts contorting figures, how her attitude towards colour has changed, and which contemporary artists have influenced her.
What is the most memorable moment during your time in Brighton University? And what do you look forward to the most in attending Slade?
The most memorable time at Brighton University was the degree show. The 2 and a half years prior to the show I felt quite disconnected emotionally with my work, it took a long time to get into the groove. A few months before the show, I began to really push myself to create work that I’d be proud of and that I could connect with. I stretched 3 huge canvas’ and made almost life-size scenes of personal eerie family memories - I remember feeling like I had landed at the beginning of something and that I'd finally found my voice. After that, one of those pieces was selected as part of Bloomberg New Contemporaries - a very proud moment of mine :)
I’m really looking forward to studying for a Masters. I'm keen to get back into some shared studios and be around other artists from different stages of their careers. I'm also looking forward to group crits where I can discuss my work as it’s developing.
Did your mode of production differ before and during the pandemic?
I felt a lot more pressure to make paintings/work physically in my studio before the pandemic. During the pandemic, many artists were unable to go to their studio and with limited space had to make smaller works. However, concepts like the Artist Support Pledge , Blue Shop Cottage Works on Paper shows and many more have helped fund artists whilst studios and galleries have been closed, consequently, works on paper have become a much more celebrated form of art. I’m now much more comfortable working from home, using this space to study/draw and conjure up some ideas ready for when I’m back at the studio.
Your latest works employ a more earthy tones color palette. Is there any reason why you started to resort to these colour choices? Does it signify anything?
I used to use colour haphazardly, but I began to feel like colour wasn't tying my paintings together anymore, which is quite an important part of my practice. A year ago, I decided to limit my colour palette to around 3 colours. This helped me understand colour in a completely new way, I began to appreciate colour and tone in its simplest form. When I felt ready, I began adding more colour to my works but with a new found respect and attitude towards it.
Colour is something I love and respect so much that I will now and forever handle with care!
You seemed to play around with the idea of contortion of beings, what is the main message or story of your works?
I’ve always enjoyed contorting figures. This firstly came from experiencing seizures as a teenager - these experiences made everything surreal - especially interacting with people. I became so influenced by the artist Edvard Munch at that time, mostly as I thought his work shared similar themes around emotional distress, loss and the human condition. Naturally, I became influenced by his use of colour and distortion.
Since then my figures have developed in their own way and I’m now much more influenced by contemporary artists such as Sarah Slappey and Elizabeth Glaessner (to name a couple) with their bulbous, fleshy and 3d like figures.
I think my work's main message is my experience as a human, what it means and feels to be alive and what baggage that may come with, so the themes change naturally all the time! My most recent body of work ‘My mouth is bored,’ explores my relationship with food using humour and personal experiences - something artists have done at various points in history. The dichotomies of capitalism, personal health, and addiction have become ever present and ever more confusing during the pandemic, so, I am investigating my own relationship with these contradictions through the use of humorous, sarcastic imagery.
Do you ever feel like people expect your work to be culturally or even, politically engaged?
I haven't felt anyone expecting anything from my work as I feel the work is really personal and emotionally charged. However, as soon as I put the work out there and it engages with any audience, it naturally becomes political and cultural.
Can you please describe your work/style in less than 15 words?
Eerie, figurative narrative paintings which explore the human condition.
What takes you to cloud 9?
Listening to an insanely good playlist when i'm on a role with a painting…. and with a diet coke.
What do you think is missing in contemporary culture?
Accessibility for disabled artists
Can you tell us something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m so transparent about my work and my life, I don't think there’s anything people don’t know!
Do you have any life soundtrack? Like when a sad song comes in and you pretend that you’re in a music video, kind of song.
Bob Dylan - Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright