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Interview with London artist Seraphina Neville


LPOL founders Katy & John chat to Seraphina about her love of material, colour and composition

Introduction

Seraphina is an emerging London based abstract artist.

She works with collage works on paper, screen prints and surface designs. Seraphina graduated with a degree in photography from Falmouth University and has since been working as a photographer while developing her art practice. Her artworks are a natural extension of the relationship with light, colour, form and composition that she has developed through her years as a photographer.

Her abstract compositions are also influenced by a love of colour and minimalism in art, design and architecture. To Seraphina, the negative space is just as significant as the blocks of colour in her artworks. All of her works begin by hand-cutting, arranging and rearranging paper and found materials. She saves the paper offcuts from all previous projects and often uses these as a starting point for new work. Over the last few years, she has produced work for clients including Vogue International, COS and Evermade. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Grazia and Stylist Magazine.

"Seraphina is a pleasure to work with and I am particularly inspired by her use of colour and form. Just when you think there couldn't be another colour combination, Seraphina will drop by with a new print or collage in the most beautiful new palette! I am always so excited to see what Seraphina produces when collaborating with other artists or brands, as her creativity and eye for composition always results in something delightful." Claudia Hogg, Gallery Manager at Print Club London.

Following the launch of Seraphina's new Zero-Waste Art Drop collection in collaboration with LPOL, we wanted to ask her a few questions about her inspiration, experiences and working methods that have led and driven her to create work of simple, colourful beauty...

Q&A

Before you become an abstract artist, you trained and practised as a photographer. Can you tell as a bit about how you got started, and the experiences that helped shaped you as an artist?

Before studying photography, I originally wanted to study fashion/textiles. At this time I did an internship with Philip Treacy where I helped in the workshop to finish hats for a Valentino Couture show. This experience was really exciting at a young age and helped me realise it was possible to pursue a creative career. I was fascinated by the workshop, the materials and the immense skills required to create such delicate pieces. Whilst studying photography, I was lucky to work with both Nadav Kander & Rankin which gave me great insights into the commercial and fashion industries. These experiences were incredible but made me realise that I didn't want to pursue a career in fashion photography, which to me at that time felt like it would be inevitably intertwined with fast fashion, advertising & over-consumption. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to work for a gallery as a photographer and have since been specialising in artwork photography whilst working on my own art practise. My photography work has given me access to artworks, archive items and sketchbooks of incredibly renowned artists, which give me no end of inspiration. It has also given me the opportunity to photograph exciting projects such as The Squash by Anthea Hamilton at Tate Britain, which included a visit to the atelier in Paris where Jonathan Anderson at Loewe was working on the costumes.

This was your first time working with leather. How did you find the process? What were the challenges?

It's been a wonderful new experience to work with leather! I mainly work with paper (which I love) but leather has so much character & is inherently a very sensual, tactile material. The smell, the markings, the texture all made me feel more immersed in the material. Practically, it was a bit tougher to cut than paper but after some practice I found I was able to achieve similarly clean lines! I don't sketch or draw out shapes before cutting, as I find using the scalpel or blade to 'draw' makes my shapes more fluid. However this also means that there's no going back once I've made a cut! This made me a little nervous at first as the leather pieces are so beautiful & each piece is completely unique so I felt more precious about them than I do with paper. 

Tell us a bit about how you made the artworks? Where did you start? What have you enjoyed about making them?

As soon as I received the box of offcuts I was so excited! I started by emptying the box onto a huge piece of canvas on the floor & exploring the different colours, textures & qualities. It was really interesting to see the traces of how they'd been cut already for the collection they'd been used for! I soon realised that it was important to me to keep some of the pieces as they were to retain part of the history of where the leather has come from & how it was used. I began working on different compositions using the pieces that jumped out to me most - be it for the colour, any interesting imperfections or the shapes that were already there. Using this as a starting point for the final artworks, I began cutting more of my own shapes from the offcuts to explore what would work best compositionally with the existing pieces. I've really enjoyed the whole process of making these works, especially how much the leather itself has imbued the whole process, bringing a more sensual layer to my work.

We’ve always been drawn to the simple abstract forms and compositions in your work. How and why do you settle on certain designs?

Thank you so much! It's a lot about feeling. I spend a lot of time working and reworking compositions, going between different works at once and then coming back to them after some time until the overall composition feels right. This often actually involves me taking elements away that feel unnecessary rather than adding more. Negative space is just as important to me as the shapes I place down - I'm always thinking about how the space around the shapes would work as an image in it's own right. I hope for my work to be calming & to encourage people to think about the space in between things.

How do you create a certain mood in your work?

The nature of a shape, colour & where that shape lies in a composition can really change the whole mood of a collage. Certain shapes & colours can feel very heavy, some can be sharp, some uplifting, others can feel soft & welcoming by drawing your eye to other elements. By almost personifying each component I try to bring pieces together which celebrate or lift each other up. I think my experience as a photographer means that I'm often thinking about these things without even realising it - when I'm making a collage I'm constantly thinking of the relationship between space, colour, texture, lines & weight.  I find myself drawn to minimalist, abstract works over more elaborate artwork as I find them more calming & that more room is left for the viewer to find their own meaning in the work.

The offcuts from our workshop were mainly from last season’s collection. How did you find working with a relatively limited colour palette?

I found it difficult initially when I'd get attached to a colour or piece of leather & realise I only had a small amount of that to work with. However I actually enjoyed how much it pushed me to work with colours I perhaps wouldn't have selected if I'd had endless possibilities. It also meant that I naturally started using both sides of the leather offcuts to broaden the colours palette, as it brought a much softer more muted range of colours into the mix. I especially loved the back of the dark green leather

You often work with found material and recycled paper. Why is this so important to you and your work?

This started as a necessity as I didn't have a lot of money to spend on materials when I first started making artworks at University. I soon realised that it adds more depth, texture & context to my work, as well as aligning with my values in trying to live more sustainability. I'm very interested in the hierarchy of materials within the art world & how historically certain mediums or artforms would be seen as more worthy or fetch a higher price than others because of the materials used. Artists like Eva Hesse, Richard Tuttle & Karla Black really inspire me with their use of everyday & found materials.

What’s next for you?

More work with fabric & new materials! I've recently started hand painting onto second-hand denim garments & I'm also hoping to release some screen printed silk scarves & t-shirts this year. Over the last few years I've been slowly collecting fabric remnants & I'm hoping to create some larger scale artworks with these.

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