How did you get started doing what you do?
I was brought up in a very creative home, I remember my older brother having lessons with an amazing painter and we used to all go to loads of exhibitions. Mum trained to be a teacher when we were young and when she was working my brother and I’d go to dad’s office and just be drawing there all the time. After school things weren’t really that straightforward. After doing an art foundation in Brighton I got really involved in music and moved to Paris and worked for a record label. I was crashing in friends’ places and painting wherever I could, corridors, kitchens. It’s quite amazing they let me really. After a couple of years of this I met someone at a party who’d studied at Parsons Paris which sounded interesting, and I was in need of a little more stability so the next day I phoned them, got an interview and was offered a bursary. I met an amazing tutor there who’s become a great friend and he got me a job assisting a sculptor. I ended up leaving the course to work for him full time and he helped me enormously; he gave me materials and encouraged me to use his studio and paint large scale and after a couple years I came back to London to finish a painting degree.
How would you describe your creative style?
Before moving back to London I studied Eastern philosophy in Thailand for a while which massively influenced my work. After ruminating on those ideas in my studio for a while I went to Florence to study Old Master paintings and techniques. Stylistically I’d consider my work is a convergence of Eastern and Western Religious art.
What’s your inspiration?
Looking for similarities. Essentially I think we’re all the same, we have the same fears, needs and desires. I look at notions of the body and spiritual belief because they simultaneously hold the ability to separate and bring us together, and they demonstrate how binary opposites exist within one thing.
What is art to you?
A platform to ask questions and find connection. Art gives everybody a voice and helps people communicate ideas that are too complex to express in language.
How do you keep motivated?
None needed as it keeps me feeling some sort of sanity, but having a group of friends involved in art, and talking to them about ideas helps with the existentialism.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
It’s been really influenced by the political climate, how the media and Politicians portray a divide between the Islamic world and the West. A few years ago I really started thinking about iconoclasm and religious visual culture.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
A sense of hopefulness, and to question what they’re seeing.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
I think I’d rather my younger-self have a word in my ear a bit more.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Whatever it is that interests you, no matter what or how small it is, become an expert in it.
What are your thoughts on art school?
They can be incredible communities, and having great tutors and a group of artists you can discuss ideas with is crucial.
But art school isn’t the only access to this. There’s so much money and bureaucracy involved now that it feels like some of the big art schools have become really institutionalised.
What really excites me are residencies like the Florence Trust which I’ve just done. The amazing thing here is a small group of artists are hand picked from different places and stages in their career that the director thinks share a dialogue and would cohesively share a studio space, discussing ideas, and supporting each other. My work has grown a huge amount from this experience and it shows just how important studio set-ups are in developing your practice, its not jut about having space but also with whom and how you’re sharing it. Turps Banana’s another great program in London outside the typical art school path that’s developing some really interesting painters. I try to organise studio visits and talks as much as possible too, you can’t rely on an art school to do it all for you.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
To study certain Italian churches, and Baroque ceilings, and also buildings like the Hagia Sophia and Alhambra first hand and make a series of paintings that blend this research together.
What’s your dream project?
To be able to study certain Italian churches, and Baroque ceilings, and also buildings like the Hagia Sophia and Alhambra first hand and make a series of paintings that blend this research together.
What art supplies do you use?
Good quality oil paint. Rembrandt, Old Holland, Winsor and Newton – it’s more complicated then choosing paint by the named colours. Each brand may have the same colour name but are really different so I make colour charts to get to know them. And I just love making colour charts. Then Rosemary & Co brushes are amazing, and I’ve recently become obsessed by Daler Rowney Graduate brushes, their texture’s been perfect for finishing some stuff.
What’s your process like?
Generally, it starts with a photograph I’ve taken, of a body or reproduction of a painting. I’ll start cutting bits out and reintroducing them in different ways and repeating sections. I’m looking to expand the image’s original narrative through a new composition. From then on its a balancing act between keeping my intentions connected to my understanding of painting, while also allowing responding to each mark. The paintings are mostly built up in thin layers which means the colours mix with the layers underneath them, rather than all sitting flat on the surface.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
By not being an industry? By valuing and supporting the role of artists in a wider context rather than just commodifying art.
See Rosana at The Florence Trust Summer Exhibition – Opening July 1st at 6-9pm and July 2nd-11 at 1-6pm daily by appointment.
St. Saviours, Aberdeen Park, London N5 2AR, United Kingdom