Harriet Hoult’s Language of Art

I’m fortunate to number one or two artists in the UK among my closest friends. While I’m definitely a visual learner, the language of art generally eludes me and the creative process using colour and form (unless it’s with words) is a mystery to me. Luckily, I recently met London based abstract artist, Harriet Hoult, who agreed to help clear the mists.

I’m really interested in that crossover point where a creative impetus arrives and can be interpreted or expressed in different ways by different people (or the same person at different times). My questions might seem a bit naive, but that’s an art style too, apparently!

Over to Harriet…

Q1 As a visual artist, have you ever tried painting with words?

Actually, just very recently, I have begun introducing words into a few of my paintings. 

I have been working on a commission for a family in Kent. Before starting painting, I wrote each of their names onto the paper. It felt that in doing this, their energy was kind of imprinted into the paper and the painting was truly personal to them – even if the names are painted over and can not be seen when the painting is complete.

On another piece, I’ve written a word of exclamation to express a feeling I’ve had whilst working on it. This has been something that just came to me in that moment and I felt the urge to put it in writing.

Q2 Has any writing ever inspired you to produce a piece of work?

This is a difficult one because I am often inspired by reading books, blogs, or poetry or from hearing stories and interviews on the radio, but how that is transferred to the painting is generally more unknown to me. It’s like in the moment I read or hear something, a rush of excitement or inspiration will be triggered inside me but I will not necessarily be painting at the time and so am not able to express it immediately. Therefore when I do come to paint, it’s like it is a series of a whole host of impressions (from my conscious and unconscious mind) influence the work.  

Things that create that feeling of inspiration within me, are for example when I am reading a personal account of someone who has lived their life ‘in their own way’, and perhaps against the normal grain, but has reached a level of success that is truly aligned to them and has become somewhat of a pioneer in their field. This seems to trigger a faith in my own uniqueness and somehow a drive to express that through the paint. 

I am also fascinated by mysticism, and poetry or writing that hints at mysticism can inspire me. To me, my painting is a somewhat mystical process, in that I have often felt that something other than my consciously creating mind is being expressed through me, which can bring the painting together in a totally different and more pleasing way than I could have planned or foreseen.

Q3. Can you describe your own creative process?

My creative process is ever unfolding and the more I create, the more I am discovering about it. It’s sort of like, it is the teacher and I am the student.

My inspiration comes in ebbs and flows, which are generally outside of my control. When I am in the inspired place, I feel fantastic, it’s the best feeling ever and when I am not in that place, it can feel very dead and heavy. However what is interesting to me is that not all of my best work necessarily comes out of the ‘inspired’ place. Some of my favourite pieces were created when I was in the ‘dead zone’ – against all my feeling and expectation. I think part of this perhaps has to do with the fact that in the dead place comes there is more of an indifference and less of an expectation of and attachment to the outcome. Sometimes when I’ve been my most careless and bold, surprising results have come about. For me however, the real key seems to be in taking the action despite what I’m feeling, and from whichever of these places I am in. Just going at it moment by moment and seeing what happens. 

Q4. Describe your workspace.

My current workspace is a part wood, part brick built out-house on the side of my Dad’s house in Richmond, London. It is pretty small, maybe 3m x 5m and it has a clear plastic roof which makes it fantastic in terms of light.  I am a very messy painter so it is absolutely covered in a multitude of splashes and drips of different coloured paint. At either end of the space, are shelves where I keep all of my paints and brushes. I paint against the wall – fixing the paper to the wall and working standing up. By standing, I find that I can move my body more freely and can be more reactive and expressive. In an ideal world I would love a really big studio with lots of space as I love working on multiple paintings at the same time.

Q5. Where can we find out about you and your work?

My website: harriethoult.com 

Q6. What’s next for you?

I don’t have any more exhibitions planned at present as right now I’m busy working on commissions and also building up my collection. Once I have these done then I will start to think about where to exhibit next.

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