P E R S P E C T I V E
Interview between Angela Saunders of Galerie Inspiré, Azille, France and artist Libby Page
Galerie Inspiré: Can you tell us why you have chosen the title Perspective for your new body of work this year?
Libby Page: Perspective means to create the illusion of depth in a painting and can also mean a point of view or opinion.
In these paintings I want to challenge both tradition single point perspective within landscape painting and also opinions that we might hold about nature.
GI: I know that you’ve experimented in different directions over the last couple of years and these various research projects that you’ve undertaken have really helped to develop your new body of work, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
LP: There have been elements of conscious research and also an intuitive reaction to being in a different place. With hindsight I can see that last year’s show “Zeitraum” was me looking nostalgically down all of those roads back to France from my new studio in Berlin. It was part homesickness, part closure; a necessary goodbye so that I can now turn my head and focus on things here. There are lots of forests to explore!
GI: It’s wonderful to see that your very well loved subject of trees, the forest, the landscape and of course your signature piece this year…… your last canal du Midi painting entitled “Pigasse 2020 Memento Mori” are all within the exhibition this year. Can you tell us a little bit about your influences for your new series of paintings and why this is your last Canal du Midi painting?
LP: I never thought I’d come to my ‘last’ canal painting, but here I am, at least for now. Although my relationship to the canal is very strong Momento Mori is a reminder that ‘all things pass’.
My reference for Momento Mori was a photograph taken in 2012, when the trees still soared, cathedral-like over the water. I wanted to go back to this moment in time, to bring this chapter to a close at the beginning. I chose a large format to invoke the memorial scale, it is a lasting homage to this beautiful place I’m grateful to have known.
The other works in the show are all based on scenes in Germany. Both from a trip to Aaronshoop on the north coast and from the woods around Berlin.
GI: How instrumental is Berlin, where you currently live, within your new work? Would you say that you are influenced strongly by Berlin and the area? Are you still influenced by the memories of the Languedoc too?
LP: I have realised that I am very influenced by the place I live, so moving from the laissez-faire, light soaked French landscapes to a place where cold, defused light falls over concrete, illuminating a recent history of control and paranoia was quite the culture shock!
There are also differences on a human level and I have started reading history books to better understand the people who live here. I’m currently learning via Simon Schama’s “Landscape and Memory” that early as the 1st century comparisons have been made between the already civilised Roman empire and the ‘barbarians’ living inside the impenetrable German forests.
In later centuries these observations became a conversation about culture vs nature. Those living within cultivated Rome, though proud of their legal systems, education and social hierarchies were admittedly prone to corruption and debauchery. The Germans, though less refined were admired for their piety, nobility, chastity and protection of the forests. Previously, I’d never questioned the Roman culture that those of us from Britain and France have inherited but in Berlin there is a different vibe, it’s more blunt, more honest, less pretentious.
I’m not quite sure how this will filter into the work yet.
GI: We’ve got to talk about colours….. because your artwork is always packed to the brim full of colours and I know in the past some colours are more personal to you, they represent certain things and they’re more specific in certain art works ….is this true of this new collection ?
LP: My language of colour is changing as I have been exploring the effects of the grey northern light on the palette. Since moving here many people have expressed shock or surprise at my bright colours and strong contrasts. Some have loved them; finding them unusually invigorating, some have found them too bold or brash. Additionally, many of the artworks in galleries here are very subdued, so I have been mulling over what might cause these reactions and this subconscious idea of how art should look…
A trip up to Aaronshoop on the north coast helped the penny to drop as I realised that even on a bright sunny day the light falling on the fields and flowers is veiled somehow. The people here grow up with an understanding that beauty has to do with subtlety, softness and muted tones.
So, I have been learning a new colour language and the three paintings Lieb (dear), Süß (sweet) and Hoffnung (hope) are made using colours taken from the sunsets in Aaronshoop. They are my way of saying to my new audience, I’m learning you and am trying to see the world through your eyes.
GI: In the the artwork ” Weg” which has already caused a big stir on social media, I see your usual sense of serenity and possibly an increased sense of spirituality in the use of your figures and the light, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
LP: What I’ve noticed here is that it is not just the trees themselves but our relationship to the trees that makes the forests so special. Ancient myths, rituals, spiritual practices, not all of them pleasant, imbue the forests with a depth that goes beyond simply what our five senses can perceive. The forest awakens those senses beyond rational explanation and, though historically places of danger, they also help us to come alive.
Representing this pictorially has presented challenges because as soon as the figure steps into the landscape it risks becoming a ‘scene’, a mere backdrop to the human narrative. I have been thinking about how I can introduce a human presence without an undesirable shift towards the Kitsch or Romantic.
One solution, as seen in Weg, is to make the figures very small by comparison to the trees. Then I can use our tendency to identify with the human element in artwork to carry a message, without it being overbearing.
GI: In one of your most recent pieces “IceFire” you are using imagery that portrays a sense of the ecological and global problems that the world seems to be facing at the moment, notably the the wildfires in California. Is this something thats getting stronger within your work and do you use these ideas to put across a message? Would you say some of your artworks could be documentations of our use and misuse of the planet?
Yes. In contrast to the concept that humans have the right to be dominant over the planet, I want to point out that we are one small element within nature and dependent upon it. We are a part of the ecosystem, living in symbiosis, it is a relationship and sadly, we have been taking our partner for granted, glorious and beautiful though she is.
The doom and gloom from the news feeds inform us, yet also leave us feeling overwhelmed, guilty & hopeless. Art on the other hand, be it painting, music, dance, poetry etc. inspire us to rediscover our love affair with nature. We have to fall in love with our planet again before we can hope to change our ways with any longevity because when we are in love we change bad habits with delight and not a sense of duty.
So, even though there is a socio-political angle creeping into my work I don’t want to condemn or add to the anxiety but rather to inspire change for the better.
GI: Thank you Libby it’s always a pleasure and we’re so looking forward to your show.
LP: Thanks Angie, it has been a great conversation.
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