Oh gosh, I simply love the cheerful, bright paintings by artist Lisa Denyer! I kind of just want to hoard them. While she describes her painting process as somewhat meditative, the color choices are influenced by the artificiality of commercial advertising and pop culture messages. Love that she shared some ideas on painting, as well as a take on what it's like pursuing the art-making path.
Hi Lisa! Can you tell me a bit more about yourself? You're currently based in Manchester, UK?
I've been in Manchester since 2010 and I have a studio at Mirabel Studios. However, I'm currently on a four month residency in Germany so at the moment I'm working from Studio MM at Galerie Martin Mertens, Berlin.
What first interested you in painting?
The kind of work I like to make has always centered around drawing and painting. I really enjoy the concentration and the meditative mindset during the painting process. I think since childhood it’s been about escapism and constructing my own reality in a sense.
What has your art education been like, whether formally or informally?
I studied for my Fine Art BA at Coventry University in the UK from 2006 - 2009. My work changed quite a lot over that time and became more abstract, but over those three years it was always recognisable as landscape painting. It was only when I moved to Manchester that my work became completely abstract. I was very inspired by the architecture of the city and I think that had a lot to do with the change in my work.
This year, I’ve been involved with a mentoring program run by Paper Gallery in Manchester. I’ve found that really useful in terms of getting advice on professional development as well as critical feedback on my work. It’s easy to become quite isolated after university so I think mentoring schemes like Tracing Paper are important.
Your work incorporates a bright palette with an interest in the texture of the paint itself. Tell me more about your process! How do you get started on a new piece? Do you work on a few at a time, or plan ahead with them at all?
I'm interested in the contrast between the slow, considered process of painting against the sensory overload of daily life and the artificiality of the things we see around us - TV, the internet, adverts, fashion, etc. I think that informs my colour choices a lot of the time.
Normally I have a couple of paintings on the go. I tend to start quite spontaneously so that I've got something to react to. Sometimes the initial marks are visible in the finished painting, sometimes not. I used to plan out the work, but now I try not to have a set idea of what the finished piece will look like. I enjoy working intuitively and responsively, it keeps things exciting.
I like to see how the paint responds to various surfaces. In the past I've experimented with painting on stone, acetate and perspex. The majority of my recent paintings are on plywood, board or wood supports. I enjoy handling these materials and I particularly like the way the paint responds to the surface textures. I haven't painted on canvas for a long time - it's important to me that the supports be substantial and weighty, and able to offer resistance to multiple layers of paint.
What is your studio space like? How much time do you spend there, and do you find that you have any routines or rituals when it comes to getting down to work?
My space at Mirabel Studios in Manchester is lovely. It’s quite an unusual triangular shape due to how the floor has been sectioned off into individual studios. I manage to get a lot of time in the there as it’s very close to my flat. I normally make a cup of coffee at home and walk over to the studio with it, put the radio on, look at the work for a while, and then start painting.
What do you do if you find yourself in a creative rut?
I've come to expect periods of doubt and frustration, but the important thing is to continue to make work. It's no good if I sit around waiting for inspiration - making work sparks ideas and then I can follow those threads.
Do you have any particularly significant influences or mentors/teachers?
I had a very good, very encouraging art teacher at school, so that really cemented my interest in being an artist.
Lately I've been reading Philip Guston's collected writings, lectures and conversations. I think he was a very inspiring teacher. I'm interested in the authenticity that comes across in his work, and the energy. He clearly painted for himself the whole way through his career, although that can't have been easy.
My work is influenced by ideas around modernity and escapism, and the transportive potential of paint. I also take inspiration from traditional landscape art forms such as shan shui. I still think in terms of landscape to a certain extent; foreground and background, using various shapes to communicate a sense of movement and objects passing through a space.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received? Is there any advice you've been given that you're happy you didn't take?
That’s a good question! One of the things I keep in mind that has come up in conversations with other artists is that there are always peaks and troughs in both artistic practice and professional development. I think it really helps to remember that, and that it’s the same for everyone.
Do you find anything particularly challenging or difficult about pursuing art, whether creatively or professionally? Or any obstacles that you overcame, which you learned a lot from?
Everyone tells you that it’s hard to be an artist, and one of the hardest things is striking a balance financially.
I feel like I’m in a good place with my work now, and I’m excited about the direction it’s going in but it has taken a while to get to this point. Having said that, being an artist has afforded me some great experiences such as the residency here in Berlin. I think it’s really important to recognise and make the most of opportunities as they come along, and to use them to progress the work. And make your own opportunities!
What do you find most exciting or fulfilling about pursuing what you do?
I'm really working towards those moments when a painting just feels right and you get that sense of excitement and satisfaction. I’m happy when things are moving forward and I can see developments in my work.
I get a lot out of having conversations with other artists - I’ve found curating exhibitions and organising other projects to be a good way of doing that, and that’s also really helpful for contextualizing my work too.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or current projects you're working on?
I’m looking forward to exhibiting in a group exhibition called Merge Visible, curated by Charley Peters. This is happening at St Marylebone Church Crypt in London in January. I’m also excited about showing work at Saul Hay Gallery in Manchester in January.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just a big thanks to you Kate for featuring my work, very happy to be in such good company!
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