Louise Benton | Interview
SAY HI TO LOUISE
Louise is an artist living and working in London. She completed an art foundation in Fine Art at the University for the Creative Arts and has an MA in History of Art from the University of Edinburgh. Louise is also working for us now! We are very excited to have this super organised, very clever lover of lush lines and creative curves join our team.
Get to know her a bit...
- Who is Louise Benton?
- I’m twenty-five, I’m an artist living in London working from my studio in Shoreditch. Alongside this, I help Art in Offices with their Operations!
- What’s your background?
- After studying Fine Art at foundation, I read History of Art at Edinburgh, where I specialised in a weird but enjoyable combination of post-Reformation Catholic art and contemporary feminist responses to domesticity. While in Scotland, I worked a lot in ceramics, which I’m enjoying picking up again now a couple of years later. Since moving to London after uni, I’ve been practicing as an artist and illustrator- I’m working on a series of work at the moment surrounding female private space, and how this is sexualised under society’s gaze.Alongside this, I’ve worked in art consultancy on the logistics side, which I love. It’s great to see the process from a different perspective; how collections are curated and installed. I’ve learnt so much about art hanging from the expert technicians I’ve been able to work with, how artworks should be packed and handled, different hanging techniques and different display techniques. A real highlight is also having the opportunity to connect with so many different artists and learn about their processes and ideas.
- What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
- I spent all my summers in Spain when I was growing up, visiting endless incense filled churches with my grandma. All the women would fan themselves through the Sunday mass, surrounded by glittering gold virgins and glass-eyed bleeding martyrs. Spanish churches have this immersive effect from a complete sensory overload which I can’t help but be inspired by. It obviously made some impression because Catholic imagery crops up in my work all the time. There’s a wealth of rules and tradition in Catholicism which aren’t so widely observed now, but there are some ideas which have really rooted; the guilt surrounding sexuality and femininity is one that endlessly fascinates me. During lockdown, I worked on a series of lino cuts depicting women in confession, thinking about the shame and isolation fostered by secrecy. When made public, they become shared and relatable experiences.
- Describe your art... (and what role does the artist have in society)
- Representations of everyday, modern life, and the figure within that interest me the most at the moment. I’m a huge fan of Louise Bourgeois, and she said that artists can show things that other people are terrified of expressing, which is quite extreme, but in essence I think is about the artist as a mouthpiece for what a person or people are feeling in a moment in time. The idea of honesty or truth in our visual language is so interesting now with the rosy filter of social media, so in that sense, artists today can counter or confront this culture. I’m examining this idea of honesty by trying to find relatability and collective experience within femininity, which is overwhelmingly censored on online platforms like Instagram. Hopefully through this I can help expand an already existing, and growing dialogue about what is is to be a woman today- my subject matter is often things that might stay off the ‘explore page’, but are still relevant to our experiences, for example sex toys and female pleasure. I work predominantly in ink and gouache, however for the series I am currently working on I’m using a lot of ceramics and expanding into more digital mediums, using my iPad to explore different effects. The digital seems so relevant for commenting on our present as it forms so much of what we consume, and provided you can work out the software (an ongoing learning curve for me) it jumps so many obstacles or limitations, like scale or expensive materials.
- What has been a seminal experience?
- When I started my art foundation, I was completely set on studying fashion- I’d learned pattern cutting, all sorts of hand stitching, run a (now quite embarrassing) fashion blog. Within the first couple of weeks I went to an exhibition on Art and Iconoclasm at the Tate, about attacks on art within religion, politics etc, for example suffragette action on Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus. I’m not sure exactly what it was about the exhibition that caused my turnaround, maybe the thought of art’s power as a statement, not just in its creation but in what it can stand for, but I switched to Fine Art the next Monday.
- What art do you most identify with?
- In her Cell Series, Louise Bourgeois makes a selection of sculptural ‘spaces’, which are like small scenes, comprising of sculptural and domestic forms. She makes inaccessible spaces using welded metals, but grants us access through meshes and mirrors, leading us through the objects within that could form a narrative but are so disconnected and obscure that you don’t quite know how to string them together. Rachel Whiteread does a similar job, she makes these huge impenetrable casts of private space, like rooms or entire houses which completely dominate the space but you can’t see through them or enter into them. They are, I think, examples of female artists infiltrating quite a public institutional space with the private feminine space, and that was confrontational when they were first displayed but I think remains so today. Femininity as explored by female artists is still is a theme where there is space to roam and I hope to strike a similar balance of contemplative and challenging in my own work examining similar issues. Both artists have very conceptual approaches but still hold process and materiality as key, which is how I think of my own practice.
- What’s your scariest experience?
- As a child, I watched a Wallace and Gromit film and bizarrely came out of it with a crippling terror of clay animation. Looking back, its that uncanny valley idea of revulsion because the characters are too real looking (I think it’s the waxy physical texture that really sets me off) and the result is so creepy. I keep checking in to see if I’m over it, but I’m not. Maybe I should face my fears and make the jump from ceramics to claymation.
- What’s your favourite artwork?
- I lived in Madrid for a year when I was studying, and made it a mission to see every work of El Greco’s I could find. There is a whole room of his work at the Prado, some of which form what was made as an altarpiece for a seminary- his depictions of The Annunciation and The Baptism of Christ are my favourites, and are mad swirls of light and colour and flesh. He doesn’t use perspective very traditionally- all the figures are pushing for the foreground so you as the viewer are drawn in to the story very easily, and his brushstrokes are so expressive and dynamic. They’re such bizarre paintings, really tall, vertical canvases but I could look at them for hours.
- What do you dislike about the art world?
- In so many ways the art world is really inaccessible. Most of the power and money are with the larger galleries and institutions, and decisions on ‘what is good’ (mutually exclusive with ‘what will sell’) are made by that small group. There are, at least, increasingly more democratic ways for artists to gain traction now, the internet being a huge resource and companies like Art in Offices are so helpful in breaking away from this by bringing work into more open spaces and offering opportunities to emerging artists.
- What superpower would you have and why?
- Self-replication would be pretty handy. You could be in lots of places at the same time, seeing a new exhibition, working in the studio and going to the pub. You’d be able to draft in some extra hands to lift heavy boxes and you’d always be really on top of your admin.
- What wouldn’t you do without?
- Interaction! I missed seeing people so much in lockdown, for general wellbeing but also for work. It’s so useful have a chat, exchange ideas, get some perspective. Zoom calls are just not the same, and if I have to explain to someone how to find gallery mode one more time, I’m going to lose it.