Louisa Chambers lives and works in Nottingham. She graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2007 (MA in Painting) and University for the Creative Arts, Farnham in 2005 (BA Fine Art). She is currently a Lecturer in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University.
Tell us about your practice.
Recently, I have been developing a series of works that incorporates a simple folded form (wrapping, found or architectural paper). I have been manipulating these folded shapes and recording through the mediums of painting, drawing, ceramics, collage and moving image. The colours that I select to make the paintings are not true to the original sources and instead are intuitively selected. Through close observation, I have become intrigued by the printed patterned surfaces and the juxtaposition of colour and geometry on the form. This has allowed me to become more aware and question how to interpret the folds, creases and shadows made by the paper, which could be perceived as flat, through the application of paint.
How long have you been practising and how did you come to it?
I graduated from the RCA in 2007, determined to move into a studio and to continue painting straight away. I managed to secure a studio that was attached to Keith Talent Gallery in London Fields. Some of my peers from the MA course also had spaces at the studios. The Painting course at the RCA was brilliant in forming a network of artists, who I am still in contact with. The course also gave me the self-assurance to work professionally as an artist. In 2008, I was shortlisted for the John Moores 25 Contemporary Painting Prize and this was a further boost to my confidence.
I continued to live in London, developing a practice in artist studios at Space Studios, Bow Arts Trust and Limehouse Arts Foundation. During this time, I continually exhibited my work in group shows with peers from the RCA and artists from the above arts organisations.
In 2011, I took ten months out of my practice and studied a PGCE in Post-compulsory education at the Institute of Education at UCL which gave me the skills and pedagogic grounding in which to teach. In 2012, I relocated to Derbyshire with my husband (who is also an artist – we met at the RCA) where I undertook an Artist-In-Residence/ Teaching position at Repton School. In late December 2016, we moved to Nottingham where I took up a 0.5 Lecturer post at Nottingham Trent University in Fine Art. I currently have a studio with the excellent arts organisation Backlit in Nottingham where I now continue to carry out my practice.
What particular opportunities does painting present you with to explore two and three dimensions?
The focus of my practice for the last 10 years has been investigating how to depict three-dimensional shapes onto two-dimensional surfaces through the lens of a painting practice. Currently, I have been making patterned objects using Protopaper (a type of folded architectural paper) and painting directly from them. Using the same paper – I reconfigure into new forms and translate them back into painting.
The idea of surface in painting and on the paper object are important to me. This can be taken literally in terms of the painted ground extending to the decorated surface, pattern and how this can be interpreted through painting. During the process of painting, I attempt to achieve figure and ground relationships through mark-making and layering of the paint.
I have been experimenting with the medium of gouache, I love that the medium has similar transient properties to watercolour paint. I use an acrylic medium to stop the paint from dissolving. The pigment is richer and doesn’t have the plasticity properties compared to acrylic paint. The transient qualities of the gouache mirror the temporal quality of the folded forms that can be reconstructed again at any point.
In relation to your research into depiction and perception of surfaces, you mention notions of manipulation and illusion. Is your exploration an academic exercise or to intrigue your audience?
I would say an academic investigation! I am not using a series of tropes to visually trick the audience similar to optical illusion games. I am more interested in understanding the gap between geometric and representation space and how a three-dimensional object is depicted on a two-dimensional plane. This is an illusion within itself. I was recommended the book Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot by Vanessa Jackson (who was one of my tutors at the RCA) which I return to frequently.
Often my paintings feature objects from a frontal view in that I want the audience to imagine the backside of the objects. Recently, the objects have been situated in imagined spaces. I have been introducing geometric coloured shapes and patterns behind the objects to suggest a space behind like a window or portal. This further extends to the loose painterly mark making on the surface of the painting to describe shadows and other areas of depth.
Your practice has included ceramics, have you left that discipline behind?
I started working with ceramics again during the Summer Lodge in July last year (2016) which takes places in the Fine Art studios at NTU. Since last summer and until April this year, I haven’t had the access to facilities to continue to work with clay. I am now taking a short slab building course at Clay School set up and run in a ceramics studio by artist Christine Stevens at Primary in Nottingham. I love the physical materiality and experimental approach working with clay and glazes!
What is the most interesting/inspiring thing you have seen/been to recently, and why?
I recently saw Clare Mitten’s exhibition Plantworks: A Factory as It Might Be at the William Morris Gallery. Since visiting the exhibition I keep thinking about how she begins with her initial source materials and reinvents them through geometric shapes and forms. I was aware of the lightness of touch in the collage pieces echoing the fragile nature of the materials that she uses – such as paper and card to make her sculptures and as surfaces to work on. It was inspiring to see especially in relation to the conceptual cross overs in my own work.
Which other artists’ work do you admire, and why?
Nathalie du Pasquier – from her philosophy to designing patterns as ‘decorated surfaces’ when she was working with the collective Memphis in Milan in the 1980s to her approaches to painting still life as abstract shapes.
Laura McCafferty – for the ease and inspirational criss-crossing of disciplines, investigations into domestic, repetition which results in a visual feast for the mind and eye.
Lizi Sanchez – meticulous attention to detail in her hand-painted fragile surfaced aluminium paintings and objects referencing modernist aesthetics (typography and design) and everyday mass consumerism.
Craig Fisher – the sumptuous approaches to mark making with paint in his most recent collage – paintings and his ambitious sculptural installations that incorporate fabric and textiles juxtaposed with challenging subject matter – violence, disaster, and the aftermath.
Mary Heilmann – her brightly coloured luscious gestural paintings and when placed side by side with her ceramic pieces – flip back and forth between painting and object.
Where can people see your work?
I am exhibiting work with Paper Gallery (Manchester) in Line and Fold at CAMPBasel in Basel from the 12th – 18th June. You can see more information here: http://paper-gallery.co.uk/line-fold-campbasel
I have been commissioned to design six flags to be flown on the top of Usher Gallery in Lincoln this summer. You will be able to find out more information here: https://www.thecollectionmuseum.com/
In September I will be co-curating the exhibition Veneer at Wirksworth Festival with artist Emily Strange. See the festival website for more details: http://www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk/
My work can be also seen on my website: www.louisachambers.com
Louisa was interviewed in June 2017.
Images were taken by and are courtesy of the artist.