This week we chat to internationally exhibiting artist Laurence Cammas about her journey from the world of high fashion to fine art.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an artist?
It was quite late because first I started working in business. I was an area manager for fashion and luxury goods for Christian Dior and I was travelling all over Asia for my market; I was not happy at all. I was happy to be in Asia, but I was not happy with the job and I didn’t know what was missing. A couple of years later I started to do something more artistic when I started a degree in jewellery making, because I wanted to do the marketing and trading of these products instead of the ones which I didn’t like. In the process I fell in love with the making process and being creative. So I became a jewellery designer and specialised in gold engraving, but this was not enough… there was something still missing.
Twelve years ago I encountered a great student exhibition in Singapore and I found that every single piece was very interesting, so I thought the teacher must have something interesting to share. I wanted to meet that person so I started painting classes and I fell in love from the very first day. I could use colour, I could tell stories, I could do exactly what I wanted compared to jewellery which was very tiny and had to be magnified.
What makes you want to create art?
I like creative things and I like to create. This is what I was missing before.
So you were living in Asia for thirty years?
Yes, there about. I finished my studies and started working there, I was a jeweller in Hong Kong, started painting in Singapore, then worked in Tokyo and now I’m in London and have been for three years.
How do you think the art scenes compare?
It is difficult to compare because my process was different, it is twelve years since I began, so I am no longer a beginner. In London there is a huge amount of competition, lots of artists, famous art schools and brilliant minds; it is very motivating, stimulating and interesting on this level.
There are lots of things to do and in terms of inspiration I am still discovering things, because my mind has been totally in Asia for so long and I’m still finding new ways of processing information to find my voice. Before I was very inspired by Asia and I had so many things to paint, not to copy Asian artists, but to find my way or my vision using Asian styles. I have evolved because of my environment and so I am still in this process here in London.
You paint predominantly with oil on canvas, why?
I started with acrylics and I switched to oils two years after that. I like the feeling of oil, the finish, the pigments, the transparency that I can achieve, and the texture itself. When I touch oil it is a pleasure. When I touch Acrylic it isn’t, it is rough like sand. I don’t like water based mediums but oil based; the finish is different too.
Why do you choose to paint the human form and portraiture?
Sometimes I try other things but they end up in the background because they never feel finished without the human form. I am very interested in people and the way we communicate. I like to observe the face and understand the way light interacts with it and to paint the way people look at each other. It can be one single person in the portrait. I’m not really interested in traditional portraiture, with a model which I did quite a lot before. I think for me that is an interesting way to learn it but it is not a way of expressing myself. I like to paint and draw my own people, the way I see things. It can be bad, good, funny, etc, but I like to put feelings into my subjects and feelings which I choose, which is different when painting a model.
If you had to give some advice to a young artist what would you say?
That life is long and we have to enjoy what we do, so becoming an artist is a good choice if it's really what you want to do. We also have to find a sustainable way of living, so it is nice to combine with a job on the side that’s hopefully very linked to your art. It is wonderful being an artist, but it is very hard to live purely from it, so teaching, curating, etc. will help. Ultimately, it is nice to do what we want in life.