Questions and Answers with Artist Christine Calow

Exploring prints Hertfordshire based artist Christine Calow.

Christine creates abstract, richly coloured and textured mixed media collages and limited edition silkscreen prints.She combines the use of print and collage, and the  collages are assembled using fragments of her own prints. Her beautiful, bold work concentrates on colour and form capturing emotional responses and experiences.

SG: Where do you get your inspiration from?

CC:The starting point for my work is travel, experiencing new countries and cultures. India has fascinated me since I was a child and has provided the inspiration for a lot of my work – the hot, vibrant colours, the jewel like palaces, the myriad aspects of Hinduism. I look particularly for colours, shapes, symbols and textures – visual information that can be used in an abstract way. At the moment I’m working on prints and collages initially inspired by my favourite Greek island, Andros. The semi circular shapes that have crept into my work are an abstract expression of the ever present church domes, whilst the colours I’m using are those seen whilst walking around the island – the unexpected vivid purple of a doorway, or the vibrant red of bougainvillea.

SG: Which artists do you admire?

CC: The artists I most admire are those who use colour as a powerful form of expression. For years I’ve loved the exuberant abstract paintings and prints of Albert Irvin – filled with colour, light and life. Other favourites are Patrick Heron and early Kandinsky. Also Mark Rothko and the less well known American Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann, both artists whose completative paintings I could look at for hours!


SG: Can you talk about your ideas and how they evolve?

CC: My work evolves around an exploration of the interaction of abstract shapes and colour relationships. I’ve always been fascinated by bold and expressive colour combinations and by the visual effects of colours very close in tone. I’m fascinated by the ways in which colour can be used to define pictorial depth, to create mood and evoke emotion. Most of the shapes I use are rectangular, either connected together to form a composition, or overlapping and “floating” within a defined area. I like to contrast controlled, regular elements of structure with looser and more irrational mark making.

SG: How would you describe your work? 

CC: An abstract exploration of colour, form and texture with references to other countries and cultures - bold, dynamic and enigmatic!

 SG:  What is a ‘typical’ workday for you like?

CC: I work mainly from home, my “studio” being the light filled front room of our house in St. Albans. This is where I create my collages and mixed media work. Working from home has advantages and disadvantages – no studio fees to pay and no commute to work. But I’m always aware of the multitude of other things that need doing – emails to write, maybe the washing up needs doing ……

My favourite workday is the weekly day set aside for my screen printing at The University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. This is a whole day when I can just concentrate on my work with no distractions!

 SG: Is there a specific theme or concept you keep in all of your work or does it change with each series?

CC: Yes, because all my work is concerned with colour and form and surface texture, but this can be interpreted in different ways.

My recent work is an ongoing developmental series of works – inspired by and with references to aspects of India and the Greek island of Andros.

I try to never remain static in my approach. Each piece of work leads on to, and is slightly different from, the last.

I create because I feel I have something to say, and I would never want to get to the point of just churning work out!

SG: Tell us about the materials and techniques of your latest work. Is there a specific process and set up for creating your paintings?

CC: Currently my work consists of paper collages and limited edition silkscreen prints which I create in small editions of around 10 or less. I love the process of screen printing and the freedom it allows me to experiment with vibrant colour combinations and textures.

I plan out a basic composition for each print and begin by printing blocks of flat colours. I then superimpose layers of textures and coloured marks, and sometimes text. The resulting images exist only as prints. They are not copies of paintings or collages.

My collages are assembled using papers that I have printed or painted myself. I use fragments of old prints, and also print surfaces specifically to use in my collages.

 SG: Are you a part of any artists groups or organisations that have been beneficial (to your work in general or career as an artist)?

CC: I’m a member of Espacio Gallery, just off Brick Lane in the heart of London’s East End art scene. Espacio is an artist run gallery, started in 2012 by the indefatigable Brazilian artist Carlos de Lins. I was asked to join completely out of the blue, right at the beginning, and I’m finding it a great opportunity – to exhibit, meet other artists and network, and introduce my work to new audiences.

 SG: If you could own one work of art what would it be?

CC: That is such a difficult question as there are so many works of art I’d love to own! Anyway, my choice is “Pompeii”, in the Tate Gallery, painted in 1959 by Hans Hofmann. A painting that never fails to inspire me, and that I never tire of looking at.

 To view more of her work click here.