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Lydia Stonehouse - New Blood

To help give further insight to the artists featured in the New Blood exhibition Broadway Gallery curator Kris Day asked each artist a series of questions on their practice, how their work was affected by the lockdown and what they think galleries should be doing to help support early career artists.

Could you tell us a bit more about your practice? 

My practice primarily revolves around a process driven approach to painting; dragging, wiping and pushing paint on and off the canvas until the history of marks begins to uncover imagery. I’m interested in sensory interactions and physical intimacy, exploring how they can form into a pictorial language despite their abstract nature.  Drawing plays a key part in my practise as it acts as the transformer and mediator between abstracted emotive imagery formed in my mind’s eye and the resolved paintings.

As an art student working through the pandemic please tell us about some of the challenges you faced during this time.

Oh, where to start?! The uncertainty of not knowing how long studios would be able to be open and the apprehension of another lockdown was unsettling and put a lot of pressure on the time we did have. We went from having 65+ hours a week available in the studio pre-pandemic to no more than 20 hours once we were allowed back in between lockdowns; I got frustrated with the lack of time and space I needed to experiment, finding that when it was my turn to be in the studio it felt so precious that I didn’t feel like I could just play and see what happened, but rather I felt under pressure to produce a ‘masterpiece’ every time I was there. I feel I missed out on the other key moments that happen in the studio aside from producing the ‘best work’. 

Trying to talk with tutors about my work when they could only see it as a photo on their screen over videocall was a real struggle. Scale became insignificant and colour was even more subjective than normal as it passed through a laptop before it even reached anyone’s actual retinas!

In crits held online I would sometime wonder if the work we were discussing was anything like the person’s actual artwork - it was quite sad really.

All artists were forced to adapt during the lockdown, do you think these circumstances effected your practice in any way and did you manage to find new ways of getting your work ‘out there’, such as online exhibitions?

Lockdown was where I learnt that my practice needed to be fun in order for it to be sustainable but also that it needed to be more like a friend, a place to dialogue thoughts, question and play. It also felt very timely to be making work exploring sensory experiences when we were denied full use of our senses in the outside world. 

Exhibitions such as New Blood aim to support early career artists by exposing them to new audiences, but this can only go so far. Is there anything that galleries could, or should, be doing to help develop your career further?

It often feels like the ball is automatically in the galleries’ court when early career artists are trying to get work shown or even simply be noticed. I’d like to see galleries give more thought to sharing knowledge and demystifying the way they work. Obviously more open calls dedicated to early career artists, like New Blood, would be great as it can feel like you’d never have a chance of standing out alongside mid-career artists. 

Are there any new projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

I’m planning a show in Brighton for early March with two fellow painters Harriette Lloyd and Claire Shakespeare where I’ll be showing some new work I’ve been making through these long winter months that reflect the more experimental parts of my practise.