Monthly Featured Artist – Lauren Marshall

Each month we want to share the work of an artist that inspires and encourages creative people at all levels to share stories about their work, journey, and life. We want to bring our audience closer to the process of making, thinking, and what it means to be an artist today. Read on for our latest artist interview with Lauren Marshall who was selected by our volunteer curator, Parker Duma, from our recent To Portray or To Portrait online exhibition.

Lauren working in her garage studio during lockdown

Interview Q & A

Tell us about your journey as an artist and where you make your work.

I finished my MFA last September at Cardiff School of Art and Design, and that was the year where I made my most successful work. Throughout my 4 years at university, I was never sure what my practice was, but I had always enjoyed travelling, taking photos, and documenting journeys, which naturally lead me to making paintings and collages about my experience. I make collages and quick drawings to start with, as ways of idea generation, then go and paint. At the moment, I still live at home, and throughout lockdown I was using my garage as my studio, then I was able to move into the spare room and use that instead.

Drive, 2020, 50 x 63 cm, acrylic on MDF

Boardwalk, 2020, 50 x 63 cm, acrylic and marker on MDF

Tell us about your most recent work or project.

This body of work ‘Shift: Pause’ is my most recent and made for my final MFA exhibition. Since this, I took a bit of a break from making art to do other things, having also secured a full-time job. This work was made in lockdown and came from my experience of walking the dog everyday in the woodland by my house. Before I moved home from university, I was predominantly focussing on the urban environment, since I was in Cardiff, but my whole practice shifted to the landscape when I went home. I used collage and paint as mediums to express my experience in this bustling environment, but it wasn’t quite what I had hoped. During lockdown, walking was the only sort of freedom we had at that point in time, and it brought back memories of walking when I was younger, as well as making new ones. I felt more aware of myself, since I wanted to make the most out of this one mode of exercise we had per day. I would take photos of nature, interesting shapes and colours which would then be abstracted most of the time in my paintings. I wanted to capture the whole experience of my walks, looking at ideas of atemporality and how all experiences blur into one. Merleau-Ponty describes this as “an infinity of different perspectives condensed into a strict coexistence” (2012: 72) where the position of the event now, i.e. the woodland landscape, “requires the composition of all of these experiences” (2012: 73). The collation of material, paintings, research and memories were all thrown into making my paintings.

Volts, 2020, 63 x 80cm, acrylic on MDF

Weeping, 2020, 50 x 63 cm, acrylic and marker on MDF

Which artists inspire you and why?

I have always loved looking at artists who use mixed media in their work, as well as abstraction. Frank Stella inspired my work at the end of my BA Degree, which was significant because that was the point where I realised what my practice really was about. Charline Von Heyl and Albert Oehlen are a couple of other examples, since I would be fascinated and mesmerised by how they used layers, different colours and patterns to intrigue the viewer, and you don’t quite know what it is you’re looking at, but you can imagine the gestures they make as they paint. Clare Woods was very significant in relation to this body of work, with her landscapes and woodland paintings. I am interested in the juxtaposition of urban and rural environments, how they contrast or harmonise with each other and photographed barriers, fences, and manmade boundaries on my walks. She also paints of these woodland images with barbed wire wrapped around a plant or foliage.

Undergrowth, 2020, 63 x 80 cm, mixed media on MDF

Reeds, 2020, 35 x 40 cm, mixed media on wood

Tell us about the work or project that means the most to you.

My painting ‘Bounds’ was made not long after I moved home. It has elements of both my home environment and of Cardiff. It makes me remember that I loved living in Cardiff so much and it was a very abrupt end to my university life, but it was the best turning point in terms of my practice, because it finally made my paintings mean something. From this I started researching more into the notions of phenomenology and atemporality and the awkwardness of tensions within my life and practice. Things that should not go together but they do, like rural and urban. In this painting, there are the hard edges and grid-like shapes contrasting with nature and smooth lines. It definitely made me question my work and the meaning of my practice so much more. I am also grateful for having something during lockdown to keep me going.

Bounds, 2020, 63 x 80 cm, mixed media on MDF

What challenges do you face making your work?

When making work, I often hit mental blocks and have always struggled to pick myself up if I made something that did not work how I wanted to. Sometimes I get too worried about what the end image will look like, since I work fairly spontaneously to leave space for surprising things to arise, I am always trying to stop myself from thinking too far ahead. This is why phenomenology, and the present experience has been so important, both in life during lockdown and whilst I paint. It has enabled me to let go and let the paint lead me where it wants to go. I struggle with these tensions of control and being spontaneous – I have always been a planner!

Kew Study II, 2020, 21.5 x 21.5 cm, acrylic and marker on wood

Kew Study I, 2020, 21.5 x 21.5 cm, acrylic and marker on wood

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Make as much as you can – the more you make, the more you develop and discover your practice. If you’re not quite sure what you’re doing at university in your practice like I was, it will come, just keep going. Read up as much as you can as well, this helped me answer questions I never thought I would have had to answer about my work, and it gives you a break from making. I loved researching for my thesis and there is so much material out there. Just get books and read! (Or look at the pictures!)

Piping, 2020, 35 x 40 cm, mixed media on wood

Kew Study III, 2020, 29 x 31 cm, acrylic and marker on MDF

What’s next for you as an artist?

Carry on painting! Now that we can travel a bit more, I’d like to go to new places, explore them and make more art from them. Maybe continue experimenting with paint and mediums, spray paint. I want to enjoy making art, not that I didn’t before, but without the pressure of grades at university. I want to eventually find a job within the arts, and I am really interested in working in a gallery environment where I can see art every day.

Lauren in her garage studio during lockdown

Find out more…

We would like to say a huge thank you to Lauren for being our May Monthly Featured Artist and you can find out much more about her vibrant and thoughtful work below in her artist statement, website, social media and more. Lauren has also shared with us a wonderful online virtual presentation of her MFA degree show Shift : Pause along with its catalog.

Thank you so much for reading our Monthly Featured Artist May edition. You can help us spread the word about Lauren’s work and our Monthly Featured Artist project by sharing this page on social media and using the hashtag:

#RooftopFeaturedArtist

Artist statement

As a body present in the physical world, my practice adopts a layered visual identity permeated by the environment which surrounds it, contemplating and exploring the phenomenological context in relation to painting. The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty suggests that the body “is an intertwining of vision and movement” (1964a: 162), and this is an anchor within my practice. The paintings I make carry a continuous dialogue and representation of lived experience, combined with the direct physicality of the natural and built environment alongside the recollection of memories and archives of information. Daily life consequents in an overwhelming sensory overload, and my mark making and colourful visual language shows life’s polarities. Geometric elements, shapes and lines break up and interfere with spontaneous brushstrokes applied within the embodiment of painting. My outcome is never fixed, nor is the perception of the piece, with the viewer bringing their own experiences to light.

My most recent body of work, ‘Shift: Pause,’ explored how the experience of walking familiar routes create abstract paintings that suggest ambiguity in relation to the landscape. Merleau-Ponty suggests the painting of any sensory experience “gives visible existence to what profane vision believes to be invisible” (1964b:62). The phenomenological event of walking is reiterated through the action and experience of painting, reflecting how I move through the landscape and how this might reveal “secret ciphers” (Merleau-Ponty, 1964b:183) and surprising things amongst a seemingly repetitive environment. I achieve this by fusing abstract and representational forms with vibrant colours taken from the landscape and alluding to a sense of heightened awareness and presence. Even though I have been acquainted with this environment since childhood, I am constantly discovering something different, resulting in a newfound joy and happiness for the everyday and home.