This week Brighton Journal spoke to local abstract artist, Lily Rigby. Based at the Rodhus Studio space, Lily finds that Brighton’s landscape is a constant source of inspiration for her work. Her dynamic and emotive paintings capture the power of landscape, and explore the changing appearance of the sea, sky and land. We discussed her upcoming participation in the 2020 Artist Open Houses, as well as her current work towards the ‘I See the Sea’ group exhibition that opens in Jubilee Library this April. Take a look at her dramatic work.
Featured Image: © Alun Callender
Article Images: © Charisse Kenion
What are you doing today?
It’s the weekend! My brother and his fiancé are coming up from Bristol to visit, we’re going to head to the Lanes and maybe get some bits for their wedding in May. Then come home for a chilled evening, cook some good food and probably watch a film.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
In my Studio at Rodhus Studios in Brighton. I feel so lucky to have a space where I can throw paint around and make as much mess as I need. I love being there with a cup of tea and music on. It’s really important to me to have a space I can walk away from and have distance from the work too – then I go back to it with fresh eyes and a new feeling. I find a lot of creative thoughts and ideas come to me before I go to sleep.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
My first solo show at an established gallery, which was in 2018. It was a dream and a goal of mine to have a solo exhibition when I moved to Brighton, I spent a whole year working on the paintings, whilst working full time, and I can remember feeling proud of myself and very excited to share my work. It was at ONCA Gallery, November 2018, and it felt like the start of my dreams becoming a reality. I try to remind myself of what I am achieving now, and I try to avoid looking too far ahead, otherwise you miss it.
What made you decide to become an artist?
It’s something that has happened slowly but I think it has always been there somewhere. I don’t remember a point of making the decision to become an artist, but I do remember the feeling of needing to paint and knowing that it was something I really longed to do.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on a few commissions and getting ready for a group exhibition ‘I See the Sea’, with three other artists in Brighton, Ella Husbands, Joanna Cragg and Annabel Wyatt. All our work is really different, so it will be great to see how the work looks together. It opens 5th April at Jubilee Library.
I’m also doing my first Open Houses this May. I currently have some work in a London exhibition that runs until 30th April, with Young Artist Partnership, an art group I am part of. They have collaborated with award winning Interior designers Finkernagel Ross and The Elsworthy Collection. It’s a huge house in Primrose Hill and each room has been designed around the art, which I think is a great concept!
I really want to do a couple of trips away this year to get inspired – I find getting away and getting some headspace really helps me feel more creative.
What are the key themes in your work?
The landscape and sea really inspires my work and has been the starting point for most of my paintings. There have been a few really significant places that have created themes for my work. In 2018 I went to Isle of Skye with my family, I think it’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen. And last year I spent some time in an art studio in Cornwall that helped form the theme of water for my most recent solo show. I think the landscape is so powerful, you see a stormy sky or a misty sea and it can evoke a feeling in you… maybe it’s a good feeling or maybe it’s something more challenging, but either way you feel alive, and that’s what my paintings are really about.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
I think it’s such a personal experience when you look at art, so I’m not sure what I would want them to notice. But I hope my art ignites something in people. I think art is amazing because one piece can mean something completely different to each person who looks at it. And sometimes there is that piece of art that you can’t stop thinking about.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I mostly use oil paint. I love it because the colour has so much depth and is so strong. I love how it can change and you can build it up or strip it right back. I have recently started using spray paint in my work too, which has been fun. I want to keep experimenting with different ways of painting and making marks. When things start to feel a bit tight I like to make a lot of mess and sometimes I wreck a painting before I manage to turn it into something I am happy with.
What equipment could you not do without?
At the moment it would probably have to be picture varnish gloss. I don’t use this in the traditional way, when you cover the whole painting at the end. But I mix it into the colour on glass and then apply it to the canvas; it is a great way to build glossy layers.
Who or what inspires you?
As well as the landscape, other artists inspire me a lot. I try to get to galleries as much as possible. I saw a painting by Gillian Ayres in Tate Britain last year, it was so abstract and so messy, and it definitely helped unlock something in me. I went back to my studio I was able to create work more freely, I felt so inspired. I also really love reading and I have a note pad where I write down quotes or phrases, that I like to read back through or tear out and put on my studio wall.
I love colour, I often flick through magazines for inspiration for this. I find a lot of fashion magazines do great photo-shoots with designers and use amazing colour, these sorts of images are on my studio wall too.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
Being so close to the sea is one of the best things about living here, and this definitely affects my work. Also, just living in a creative city helps me feel like I can achieve my goals. I think Brighton has a great feeling that artists support other artists; it doesn’t feel as competitive as London might. I really love the slow pace of Brighton. I am a part of a few art groups, which have been great support systems and platforms for my work and I try to get along to other creative events that happen in Brighton as much as possible. You never know you might meet. Also having my studio at Rodhus, I have met some amazing people there, we all do such different things, but it is a great network of creative people all working in the same building.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
Swimming in the sea. And a walk along Hove Promenade with a hot drink.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
My favourite gallery would have to be the V&A! I love it there, it is full of so many treasures and they always put on the best exhibitions. My mum and I recently went to the Tim Walker exhibition, which was so inspiring. You can see how much fun he has. I always try to go to a gallery when I’m away too; they have some really beautiful ones in Florence.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
This is a difficult question as there are so many artists I love and admire. I think currently it would have to be Grayson Perry. I love his work and he seems like such a down to earth and funny person. I have read a couple of his autobiographies and they always make me laugh. He has such a great story. He says a lot with his work and really makes people think about the way the world is and how we relate to each other. I think it would be an interesting collaboration.
Another would have to be Alexander McQueen, his early collections are incredible, I would love to see a dress made out of my torn up paintings.
What’s your favourite colour?
Blue, always. It is so calming.
Find out more about Lily Rigby and her work here.