What do you do?
I’m a London based artist
When did you realise that you wanted to be an artist?
That’s a good question; I have always drawn and painted but my background involves lots of different art forms: dance, music, drama, and the visual arts. It was only in 2014 that I made the realisation that I had, what I felt was, untapped potential as a visual artist and that was a direction that I wanted to take.
Was there an ‘ah-ha!’ moment which helped you realise that?
In terms of realising my ideas, moving forward with them, and seeing what possibilities might follow. Time was ticking on and it was this sense of if not now, then when?
You have a background in arts project management, tell us about this.
I’m passionate about all the arts, visual arts certainly playing a big part in that, for a long while I worked in London for major arts venues, so I was around lovely, creative people in that environment, I did arts administration, arts organisation and arts education, so I was organising a lot of different things rather than being the artist myself, but it was a fantastic place to be. I feel fortunate for all the places where I worked, I met incredibly creative people and all of that fuelled where I am now.
You paint the urban landscape, what attracts you to that subject?
I’m a Londoner through and through, I’ve always been around and in the city, and I think it is an incredible place, this vast evolving entity that we are a part of, but we can also observe it, either through our eyes or through the camera lens. You have this interplay between permanence and flux, concrete and shadows; it is this charged space. In my paintings I explore the idea that the city is almost a stage set, a space where encounters are possible. Also, I am excited by how we navigate space physically, the movement in the city, and then the illusion of space on the picture plane.
Who would you say is your biggest influence?
There are so many. I think in terms of the urban landscape paintings the American modernist Stuart Davis is hugely interesting to me, I think his joyfulness and communication of rhythm and dynamism within the city.
People like Maria Helena Vieira de Silva and her strange architectural spaces. I think my inspirations grow all the time. It’s so exciting to be discovering new people and what they do and how that relates to what you do, so it’s a never ending list.
When you are engaging with abstract elements in your work how do you realise your point of completion?
There is definitely a different process if I am drawing or painting outside in the city, in direct observation from life.
That’s what you do?
No, that’s one part of what I do, often that’s a space for smaller work to happen; I like that immediacy. The other side of it is the recoiling back to the studio and instead of having a dialogue with the outer world it’s a dialogue between you and the artwork. I tend to find that I move further and further away from my starting reference point, from a sketch or photograph that I have taken, the abstraction takes over. It’s exciting to see spatially what happens when you add a line and subtract a line, add a shape and subtract a shape, so you have an interplay between the atmosphere you are creating and the structures and geometry. I think there are endless possibilities, there is no one definite end point to my work.
I think part of it is the excitement of the materiality, discovering what the paint can do. I think in my paintings at the moment I would say it’s about where things meet; you’ve got that literally in the urban landscape, people meeting things, etc. On the canvas it is about where the marks meet, or where different materials meet.
Another excitement in painting is the permanence of it; you are making a physical mark and it is a mark which remains.
At the moment I am also playing with collage and it’s interesting to have these different visual languages communicate something.
My paintings refer to the past because of their roots in modernist depictions of the city, in abstraction, and geometry that started during that period. Then the present, as they point to the urban landscape as it is today in my experience, and also to the future as I am making this work that will hopefully stay around and will perhaps serve as some kind of legacy.
Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
I feel massively excited right now with my journey which is only just beginning, the hope is that I’ll continue making artwork and have a rich, sustainable practice that connects me to my surrounding world, to others around me, and I suppose to myself, and that those connections keep building and the excitement remains.
Gail Seres-Woolfson will be exhibiting her paintings in Focus LDN's 2016 Winter Exhibition at the Menier Gallery, London Bridge. This December 13th-17th.