London-based artist Venetia is known for her abstract depiction of the female nude. No longer aiming to create a literal picture of the female body, she wants to convey the feeling of femininity to her audience - whatever their interpretation might be. Graduate of Leith School of Art, Edinburgh and the Royal Drawing School, London Venetia’s dreamy like qualities are filled with lilac and pastel blue hues, signifying a sense of calm and tranquillity, a peacefulness that no other colour fully emulates. In this conversation with where’s the frame? And Venetia, we talked about how she’s still obsessed with Normal People soundtrack, her new found love, ceramics and how Matisse is her go-to inspiration.
How did you come to the idea of exploring the nude female body? Were you inspired by a particular individual?
I have always loved drawing people, starting off mainly in portraiture and slowly moving towards focusing on life drawing. I always preferred drawing the female nude which, generally speaking, tends to have more curves than the typically male form, but as I have grown with my work I also realise that it is important to me to convey the female nude as it reflects my life experience of being a woman. Now my work has hugely abstracted and I am no longer aiming to convey a clear picture of a female nude, I am more interested in creating a feeling of femininity, whatever that may be to whoever is looking. In terms of my inspirations, for me, it will always be looking at other artists' work that gives me the most inspiration.
Can you describe one of your latest works and tell us a little bit about it?
I have recently been experimenting with the materials I use as my primer (primer is a clear layer you paint onto the raw canvas to protect it). I love how the paint looks on the raw canvas, but the colours risk fading over time (the colour palette/intensity is a huge part of my work) and they are also much more easily marked or scraped. So I have spent the last month or so trying out a very watered down primer that will hopefully help protect the canvas in years to come. Last week I created my first painting in a while. The paint is super watered down so it soaks in, becoming part of the canvas, as opposed to the paint sitting on top of a surface. The background is a powdery blue and the work is based around a reclining female nude, painted in a pastelly palette. As I said previously, my work has become quite abstract and it is the feeling or essence of femininity that is really what I am trying to convey in my work now. (See image of painting below).
What draws you to ceramics? Are there any other mediums you wish to explore?
Ceramics are so wonderful as they are an object that can be moved about and shown from any side. I love that the majority of people can fit some kind of ceramic piece into their home, not having to worry about the size of the wall as you do with paintings. To me, they just seem like playful and easy objects. The owner is also able to make them their own by displaying them in a certain way or even putting flowers in them, almost becoming a collaborative piece. Gosh, there are so many materials I am dying to explore! I was given a sewing machine for my birthday last year which I am slowly getting used to. I love the idea of eventually being able to embroider either on canvas or into my clothes. I am also dying to learn some kind of quilting or tapestry. Screen printing is on my list too. I would try anything if I’m honest!
The colour palette of your works consists of a range of pastel colours. Yet, we realised that in most paintings, predominantly, blue always pops up - what does the colour signify to you?
Yes, I adore pastels and at the moment I am completely drawn to this lilacy/ powder blue. When I work I never plan the colours in advance, as I will never really know what colour to put where until I am actually working on the painting. I also love this instinctual nature of painting and would rather leave any pre planning out of it! And yes, I do use lots of blues - to me blues signify a sense of calm and tranquility, a peacefulness that no other colour fully emulates. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I practice different rituals and routines every day to try and keep my anxiety at bay. I often think of this as my constant search for calm within myself and my mind. So, naturally, this comes out within my paintings too. Painting does make me feel calm and I really want my work to reflect a sense of this.
Your work reminds me of the dreamy quality of Matisse’s. Does the artist play a role as your inspiration?
Oh wow, what a compliment! Thank you. I have always and will always adore Matisse’s work. He is my ‘go to’ when it comes to finding inspiration and his cutout book is probably my most thumbed book in my studio. He just seems so universally loved, doesn’t he!
Do you have any favourite practicing artists you follow instagram? Name a few and spill their instagram handles!
Absolutely. So many! Some of my favourites would be @elizahopewell @thisisaliceskinner @nengiomuku @roseelectraharris @emilyponsonbyart @cas_namoda @jessalynbrooks @kanica_curated would just be a few! - and she isn’t a practicing artist but I adore the pastel palette of @heartzeena
Also, for all female art knowledge @thegreatwomenartists
Can you tell us something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I played the saxophone for about 12 years... but sadly haven’t picked it up in 10 years and I can’t remember a thing! Woops
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.
Ooh, well I go through real phases but I’m still obsessed with the Normal People soundtrack. My favourite being ‘Only You’ by Yazoo.
How do you unwind after a long day?
It totally depends really! Maybe some Yoga or Pilates - but I actually prefer to do it at lunch since lockdown for some reason. I would probably come home and have a bath and do some cooking. I love reading too. Either that or going out for dinner (God I can’t wait for restaurants to open!) and having a few glasses of wine with my girlfriends or my boyfriend.
Do you have anything exciting planned for 2021/2022?
I am dying to put on an exhibition at some point in 2021 - anything at all just please don’t make it on zoom! Such a big part of why I create is so that people can see the works in the flesh, so trying to convey everything online over the last year has been a little disheartening, but obviously a very small worry in comparison to everything else that has gone on over the last year. There may be some collaborations in the pipeline too, but the discussions are too early to tell at the moment! Give me a follow on @venetiaberry and I will keep you up to date