‘Age Makes You Stronger’
Interview by Ursula Lake
Images of Hester’s work, courtesy of Liberty of London
Make magazine catches up with colourful, fine-artist Hester Finch to find out more about her beautiful and extraordinary work.
Q. Tell us about your history and background.
A. Born in London, my parents moved the family to Leicestershire when I was a teenager briefly earning me the catchy moniker, ‘Hester from Leicester’. I studied Fine Art at the Ruskin School at Oxford University, and when I left in 2002 I didn’t feel ready to be an artist. Instead I spent the next six years learning the workings of the commercial art world and gaining some life experience by working variously in the contemporary department of a Mayfair fine art dealers, painting murals in a chateau in France, pulling pints in Barcelona, and spending a year up scaffolding as a building conservator at Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
Q. Finally, I felt ready to apply myself to my art practice so I made the decision to move back in with my parents for a time. Eighteen months later I returned to London, and combined painting and exhibiting alongside part-time work in a hospice, an artist management agency, and a print dealer’s specialising in Picasso. I paired up with my good friend, the gallerist Jessica Carlisle, and we showed my work in Knightsbridge, Soho and New York. Jess is now with Browse and Darby and I am working with the excellent Georgia of Partnership Editions.
Q: Let’s begin with a standard artist question, but nonetheless an interesting one we hope, who are your artistic influences?
A. My influences are, literally, whoever I have seen and liked in any given week – be it at the Tate, at a small commercial gallery, or just as likely on Instagram. So current obsessions are Vivian Browne, Doron Langberg, David Byrd, Ambera Wellmann. Artists I return to again and again include Brice Marden, Alice Neel, Philip Guston, Goya, Fairfield Porter, Odilon Redon and William Kentridge.
Q. Tell us about your creative work process?
A. I used to work best at night when everyone else was asleep and time seems elastic. However, now I have two pre–school children that is no longer an option – it’s very difficult to be a good mother when you are tired. I squeeze my working hours around my childcare, especially leaning on grandparents and my husband. I have my studio at home and the only sound I might have in the background is the chatter of the life model, otherwise, I work in silence, furiously trying to get maximum productivity before the kids return.
Q. If it’s possible to articulate, where do you get your ideas?
A. Identifying themes that preoccupy me and recur in my work was a long process, that culminated in a show I did in 2014, titled,‘Alone in Berlin’ (after the novel by Hans Fallada) which featured three separate series of miniature paintings based on: mugshots, miscarriages of justice (portraiture), sites of atrocities (landscapes); and objects related to my time working in the hospice (still-lives). It was only through producing them that I recognized the common theme was a loss of power and identity (owing to the state, war and chronic illness respectively).
Over the next eighteen months, I became engaged, married and then pregnant and with these shifts in my life, my paintings became autobiographical and concerned with the female experience – and with that came the headless nudes. However, the themes I was exploring remained the same.
Q. Do you agree that creativity is a muscle that you have to keep exercised?
A. Everything gets better with practice, and I reckon art gets better with age, but sometimes a period away from the studio(weeks, months, years) gives your mind objectivity and time to re–boot.
Q. How would you describe your creative process?
A. At the moment, my starting point is nearly always from life, i.e. a nude model, as it gives a different energy to my line and mark making. Then I try to take away the physical object and balance the composition.
Q. If you could only use one medium again for the rest of your career it would be.
A. I suppose it would be oil paint as it has the greatest flexibility.
Q. I always remember that Kandinsky said he felt that colours had sounds and that raspberry red was the colour of sleigh bells! Colour is clearly a vital part of your work, was it always that way? Does colour have any symbolism for you too?
A. The priority for me when I choose my colours is to exaggerate the sense of unease. I play around with the idea of prettiness, using the subject of the female nude and the bright colours of the paper and pastels, and deliberately subverting this by setting colours against each other that jar, and nearly always incorporating black.
Q. We discovered your work via Instagram… Is this the future of art sales? Do you have any thoughts about social media and its pros and cons?
A. Instagram is a great tool in the sense that it is a link: a supportive community of artists, from the established, to those who are isolated or starting out; for art world professionals and for collectors from the affluent to the aspirational and the window shoppers. This is how I was found by Partnership Editions and it has generated a whole new engaged audience for my work. Of course, there is no comparison to seeing work in the flesh and, if people are seeing a backlit thumbnail of your work every day or every week, there is the risk of undermining its power to shock and seduce. In a sense, art is the antithesis of contemporary fast-paced society because progressions and developments come slowly over years, with frequent repetition of ideas and subjects and techniques. Similarly, Instagram is a kind of feeding frenzy of art, with users’ attention diverted within minutes, hours and days to the next brilliant artist and one thing it has shown me is that there is a huge number of exciting artists out there.
Q. The artwork I would love to own is….?
A. The ‘The Entombment’ by Michelangelo at the National Gallery, in all its unfinished glory, would look great above my bed.
Q. The theme of this issue is strength, what would you say is your strength or makes you stronger?
A. Time ticking is a great motivator. Age makes you stronger.
Q. What is next for Hester Finch?
A. Surviving motherhood and making some paintings!
You can see and purchase Hesters work at Partnership Editions HERE