#portraitoftheartist is a feature in which we ask an artist or designer, aspiring or established, to tell us about themselves, something they’ve created and what inspires them. The idea being to dip into the psyche of the creator. That and to look at some nice art/fashion.
My name is Holly Gavin. I study Fine Art at the Edinburgh College of Art and I am currently taking a semester abroad at Purchase College in New York. Up until recently I’ve been a complete perfectionist with my work – only putting onto canvas exactly what I pre-materialize in my head. However, now that I’m in New York, I’ve started experimenting a little bit more.
For the first time, I am painting with no clear bearing or concept and my works are becoming, dare I say it abstract. AbEx (that’s Abstract Expressionism to you and I, wannabe-New Yorkers) is incredibly popular over here and it’s influencing my work more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve also started using oil paints, which has been fun. It’s been incredibly difficult to get used to, but incredibly liberating at the same time. My mind’s telling me no but my body, my body’s telling me yes.
This is a painting of mine called What’s Your Flava. I painted it a month or two ago. It was a homework assignment for which we had to create our own still life. Obsessed with brands, always and forever – the Edinburgh me still exists, I mounted mine in a Cup Noodle cardboard packaging box.
The colour squares came from printer-marks on the bottom of a milk carton, but transformed into a pattern alternating in colour and size. The painting started with no clear aim or direction. It actually began as a collage of photos of doctors from a free medical magazine before turning into the work it is today.
The squares have now become an important motif in my work as a pattern. I first used colour grids as painting exercises for one of my classes, but they have now turned into (I hope) resolved paintings in which different squares are painted with an array of paints and mediums onto a variety of surfaces: primed/unprimed canvas, cardboard, bits of plastic bags, cellophane wrap, suede, etc.
I quote the slogan ‘For the Very Best in Ramen Noodle Soup’ from the Cup Noodle box on the borders of the canvas to reference advertising and to link painting in its singularity to industrial mass production. It is a statement about quality control and authenticity in the form of an analogy – as ‘Cup Noodle with Shrimp’ is to Michelin star dining, What’s Your Flava is to the historical tradition of painting.
Inspiration is always a difficult one, since influences are far too numerous to count. In terms of art history and theory though, I am a strong believer that an artist’s work is strongly linked to his/her life; both can and should be approached separately, but day-to-day life is certainly influential in the act of creation.
Personally I’ve always looked towards my immediate surroundings for inspiration, striving to find beauty in everyday life be it in supermarkets, shop-fronts, family photos, packaging, etc. Sometimes influences are more complicated and dig a little deeper – having been brought up in Lebanon as a European, I’ve been blessed with quite the mix of them.
The work of other artists is also another important influence to me; I am currently looking at the work of Kerry James Marshall. However, in the studio, I am surrounded by the work of other students, which becomes far more influential than that of recognized artists. Purchase student Chad Coumbes, George Browne and Billy Crosby (also on exchange here), and I curated a show of our own work titled Circumbendibus (above) just last week based on our common interest in geometric abstraction.
Otherwise, music is always a big factor, especially since I consider painting an individual practice. Distractions are abound, and often, it is necessary to tune out, and enter somewhat of a trans state. One of my personal favourites of the moment is Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin – oldies never disappoint.
Holly is a fine art student at the Edinburgh College of Art. She grew up in Lebanon, although don’t ask her to speak Arabic – 19 years on and French is more her thing. Holly admits that she feels far too un-arty for to be an art student – although seeing as she obsesses over Doc Martens and one of a kind cardigans we think she’s doing just fine.
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