Featured Artist Rosemary Lawrey
What is your name or the name you go by for your art?
My name is Rosemary Lawrey.
Where do you live?
I live in the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It stares across the Solent towards Portsmouth and the more distant Southampton, watching the cruise ships, battleships, and giant container ships float by.
What’s your background?
My name, I read somewhere, means rose of the sea, and I came from the seaside but was separated from it for many years when I left Devon for university and never went back to live there. The salt water has nevertheless flowed in my veins my whole life, and I have always looked for the sea when standing on any hilltop. It has always called to me. Eventually I had an opportunity to return to the coast four years ago. I hope never to leave it permanently again.
Which media do you prefer to work with?
When I’m out walking, a smooth-paged sketchbook and a uni-ball pen for quick-flowing line drawings, spontaneity, and movement. When I’m out painting, oil paints and paper. When I’m painting at home, oil or egg tempera.
How did you learn your craft, i.e. college, self-taught etc., and what did that entail?
I spent all my free time as a child reading or working my way through the seemingly endless Warne series of big “How to” paint/draw books. They taught me everything from portraiture to cartoons and landscapes.
The books came from the art shop two doors down from my parents’ shop. I spent my pocket money there, also buying tubes of Cotman watercolours and I did my best with them. I don’t think I had grasped the difference between watercolour and oil paint and was sometimes frustrated that I couldn’t quite get the effects shown in the pages of my guides, no matter how thickly I squeezed the watercolour from the tube onto my pad.
I eventually developed my own style, which I largely kept to myself, but was relieved, in later years in Berkshire when I plucked up courage to join the experimental drawing workshops of Sally Haynes, to find that experimentation is OK, and I wasn’t alone in my strangeness. I still remember that sense of relief. Had I gone to art school, I would have discovered much earlier that it’s OK to experiment. However, my hankering for art training remained unexpressed and unfulfilled as a young person as I had no one around me who painted or encouraged me in that way, so I wasn’t really even certain that such a thing as an art school existed.
However, I was also academically inclined and had a love of words, so I followed my parents’ ambitions into studying languages at university. This gave me the wherewithal to support myself as a translator. It has only been recently that I have realised – with surprise – the link between my approach to translation and my approach to art and, I guess, to life. Both, while not necessarily adhering literally to the original – the subject – nevertheless are an attempt to convey something of its authentic meaning in the reader or viewer’s own language. This means that the viewer must bring something of themselves to my work and will appreciate the art better by giving themselves time to allow their own imagination freedom to roam within the painting and beyond it.
What does your work aim to say?
First and foremost, my work comes from myself and is an expression of whatever is germinating in me at any particular time. As I paint, I am thinking all the time, and somehow those thoughts transmit themselves onto the canvas. I can’t really explain how. I guess their rhythms must guide my brushstrokes in some way. Occasionally a viewer will describe my thought processes back to me, sometimes in detail that I find quite frightening.
One occasion that stands out was a rower looking at my colourful abstract painting, “Stroke by Stroke”, which was inspired by a chance encounter, during a walk in the rain along a muddy towpath, with the bedraggled participants in the gruelling Devizes to Westminster canoe race. “Yes”, he said. “That’s exactly how it felt.”
My work is saying that there is excitement in this very moment, on this very spot. We don’t need to get on a plane or into a car to find the amazing, the quirky, the fascinating. It is all here, right in front of us, in the bricks of our own homes, in the air that we breathe, or in the cold rain gurgling down the drain or trickling down the collar of your jacket.
I spend a lot of time walking with no particular destination or intention, just following my feet wherever they happen to take me. My art walking blog, “Feetmaps”, is about the adventures I have and the things I see when I simply walk from my own front door, often along paths I have taken many times before. There is always something new to notice and many surprise experiences. This concept is simple, but it does have high political and social relevance.
Could we save our local economy by shopping round the corner? Could we protect our health by going for a walk instead of for a drive?
Could we protect the planet by appreciating what is in front of us, instead of needing to fly abroad? Could we have better mental health by being helped to engage with our local communities? Could staring at the four walls of our flat be an enriching experience if on one of them hangs a picture with the ability to take us into new imaginary experiences?
It is a fascination with the immediate, the here and now, that informs all of my work. My most recent project has been a series of artworks inspired by the local shops round the corner from my house, easily as exciting as Brighton’s famous Lanes, but much less well known, even to many of the local residents here. Each one is a doorway to a different community, to new skills, new friends, new ideas, if we are adventurous enough to push it open and not just travel on by to the nearest chain store. Knowing the value of community, many of these shopkeepers are happy to devote time and share knowledge for free with anyone who enters their door.
Who are your biggest influences?
Artists who have a boldness. I had an early fascination with Op Art, then fell in love with Gustav Klimt. I discovered David Hockney early and love the shrieking oranges of his American landscapes. I love the grinding teeth in the skulls of Basquiat’s figures, and I love the cinematic movement in some of the work by contemporary artist Kristine Moran.
How do you navigate the art world?
With confusion. But then, I like mystery, so that’s OK.
How do you cultivate a collector base?
I am forgetful in this respect, but I maintain a regular blog and presence on Instagram, and on Saatchi Art, where I’m building a following and collector base.
How do you price your work?
I think that a fair way to price artwork is in accordance with the time it has taken the artist to make the piece. If a worker is not paid for the time they spend on the work, then they are not able to live. Skill and experience also must be a factor in this. That doesn’t mean that every price reflects the time and experience that has gone into the work but that’s my ideal starting point.
Which current art world trends are you following?
I am very interested in the breakdown and fusion of different artistic genres: music and ambient sound; ambient sound and art; art and poetry; poetry and music etc. There are always boundaries for artists to break and that is exciting.
How do you seek out opportunities? Do you know where you are heading career-wise?
I hope to be able to continue to make art, learn and challenge myself. No matter how carefully we plan, we can’t predict life’s twists and turns, or the opportunities that may come our way.
Only a couple of days ago, I went for a coffee locally, on the campaign trail to tell people about my latest exhibition down the road. This chance café visit resulted in an invitation to paint a mural on their outside patio area, and a potential drawing student for the artist friend who was with me. Opportunities do have a way of seeking out anyone who is open to recognising them. If you are open, then success is inevitable, as even the failures can open up new challenges and opportunities to learn.
Do you have any tips for young artists just starting out?
Yes. Don’t listen to everyone who tells you can’t do something. Listen to the people who say, “Why not?”
Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
My exhibition, Feetmaps II – To Iceland and Beyond, in the Aspire shop window gallery on Ryde High Street, has just ended. After a short break, I will be creating a virtual exhibition throughout March, accessible through a page on my website (see below) where the multimedia blog can also be found.
In June I will be part of a second virtual exhibition – art in response to poetry – with my art collective, Artikinesis. Our first virtual exhibition presented the poetry of emerging artist Tani in response to our artworks.
Where can you be found on social media?
Open Studios/Isle of Wight Arts: https://www.isleofwightarts.com/artist-profile/rosemarylawrey/
Ps My egg tempera painting The Green Bank has been selected for Planet Recovery, an environmental exhibition hosted by Labyrinth Gallery open for 6 months from 1st February 2022. Labyrinth Gallery Virtual Art Gallery – Labyrinth Gallery