Ever wondered what fungi under a microscope looks like while tripping on acid? (Ummm, no - me either.) I think it might be something like the dotty dance of Malgosia Stepnik's paintings. Fluid fluros pulsate on the canvas glowing like LED-lit lily pads. Stepnik - stimulated by the energy of life - is a babe-slash-artist who can pull off those lace up the leg, lightening-bolt Choo's, while also being pretty handy with a brush. Here Jade Townsend catches up with the hot London artist about what has been inspiring the work that will appear in her solo exhibition at SCREAM.
Firstly, congratulations on your first solo show at SCREAM. I have long admired the painting that hangs on the back of the gallery. I have to say anyone who is on 'Team Ofili' is already a winner in my eyes. I remember seeing 'Virgin Mary' for the first time on a uni trip and thinking... Sheesh. I wish I had painted that. It was cool, clever and fresh. What was your first smack in the face art moment?
Chris Ofili's work is truly spectacular - I love the way he converts space, creating a theatrical atmosphere. I have very much been in love with Surrealism: a few years back, I think in 2002, there was a large exhibition of Surrealism in Tate Modern and I was besotted. My second and equally important inspiration is Bridget Riley.
I once had a (female) tutor who told me, "Jade, maybe you would be a better painter if you took less time to get ready in morning". Nice. Despite all your credentials do you find that people don't take you seriously as an artist because you're a babe with a killer wardrobe?
I have been very lucky with women, particularly strong women - they have been an immense help, way more than men in my case. However I too have come across rather dismissive women and men, usually, once they see my work they realise that I'm serious. I have learned that the only person I can count on is myself. I have learned that the most important thing is to be true to oneself. There is one thing though - one does change with time and the amount of work and life experiences. Some things become less important than others.
London is a pretty fickle town: you're in or you’re out. I have seen your work in SCREAM in the past and with another upcoming show. It seems that the market likes you. How does the reaction to your work differ when you show in other countries?
Yes, I have been very fortunate in London and the UK. I'm incredibly grateful for that - a long time ago I have decided that it is my home here. I love the mixture of people, the pace and I just love the British countryside.
In addition, I've learned that the French and the Belgians seem always to be very fond of my work; they have this immediate response to my work, which is just wonderfully encouraging. I found that the Polish are similar. I had an exhibition in Italy, and that was fun, but it seemed that the Italians prefer much more classical figurative style.
Your artistic expressions are drawn from all elements of everyday life, as you experience it. Your journey. Your relationships. Your creative inspirations. How is your work affected during unsettling times?
I'm one of those people that no matter what is going on around me I create work. What differs is the size and medium. For this exhibition, I thoroughly researched Jung, so I’m much more consciously inspired here by Jung, the colours and neuroscience. Inspired by Jung's writings, I explored in my body of work his idea of Duality, as well as his beliefs about the human subconscious mind, which I presented by splitting my work between dark frames and dark background and the white frames and light background, and the titles I derived from my readings. I have always studied the colour theory and meaning of colour and its influence on humans, which is immense. The greatest inspiration beside Jung's discoveries is neuroscience - hence my work 'Plasticity' - the latest discovery confirms that our mind - no matter how old we are - can still change.
Every morning I read three news papers, sometimes I meet people with incredible stories - tragic, sad, heart-breaking, as well as very positive people - and I watch how their story has ‘curved’ them and their approach to life and to people; how it has influenced their beliefs and thinking process and shaped their life. Recently besides reading Jung, colour theory and discoveries of neuroscience, I have been reading a lot about human trafficking, which I found incredibly heart-breaking. I have found I learn about myself through the process of making my work. I become more grounded, relaxed and able to deal with sadness and tragedies, insecurity and anxiety of the outside world. It's almost as though people are connected to something beyond their every day struggles.
OK, so the usual dictating drivel now: go and see the show! It opens April 27, SCREAM, 34 Bruton Street, London, Greater London W1J 6QX.
And here's Malgosia Stepnik in her studio: