Interview: Freya Nash

How did you start as an artist?

I’ve always been a creative person. As a child, I played relentlessly with arts and crafts—cutting, sticking, drawing, making a mess. But I suppose it wasn’t until I was in college, doing Fine Art A-level and beginning to regularly visit galleries, that I saw it as a potential career. Despite my interest in other subjects, primarily the sciences and philosophy (which continue to influence my practice), it was making art that really fulfilled me. The idea of being able to immerse myself in creativity really excited me and prompted me to go to art school (Central Saint Martins) which I have recently graduated from.

How did you come to choose the varied mediums you work with?

At school I remember only being able to use acrylics and desperately wanting to try out using oil paint. I think I was intrigued by its popularity, its tradition and its use by so many of the masters. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I bought myself some and began to experiment with it. I quickly found myself trying to blend the colours and creating a softness in the merging of colours and forms—a technique I have retained and continue to refine and develop in many of my paintings.

Creating digital art came to me later. During my foundation year at London College of Communication I began to move away from use of solely traditional mediums, painting, drawing and printing, and started experimenting with photography and digitally-made artwork. The possibility of endless manipulation of the imagery opened up new potential for my work and I enjoyed the endless play without fear of overworking a piece.

Over time these mediums have come to combine within my practice and complement one another. Now this process of working between oil on canvas and digital manipulation has become integral to my development as an artist, enabling me to create pieces derived from paintings I never imagined I could.

How has your art evolved over time?

Over the past few years my work has repeatedly responded to my life-long fascination with the body. This is particularly overt in much of my previous artworks. For a long period of time I focused on the abject, specifically representing and responding to the internal body, captivated by the idea that I can simultaneously feel squeamish and repulsed by something that I also find starkly beautiful, interesting and powerful; and that this is actually a part of me—a part of us all as living, organic creatures. This interest with the body and self has remained constant yet has slowly evolved to become something broader. I have come to find influences in the modern world that I live in, most specifically with regard to humanity’s relationship with technology and the effect of this in connection to the body and self.

A naked person sinks to the bottom of deep waters, with light green background and dark green algae in the bottom. They are connected to the surface with a long, red umbilical chord and the seem to be pregnant with an infant figure.
The Birth of The Posthuman, 2017, oil on canvas.

In Unfixed, a six-stage project, you successfully engage with the dissolution of boundaries between the organic and the digital in order to foreground the ever-evolving and ever-manipulated concept of the self, organic entities, and nature in general. Talk us through the first two sections: Origins and Transitions.

Origins is a series of photographic images existing almost as ‘digital ghosts’ of a selection of destroyed abstract paintings. This was the initial phase of the Unfixed project which aims to represent the interconnectedness between the mechanical, digital, biological and organic.

I used oil paint, on paper and canvas, to represent the organic: the pre-technology, visceral human body. By photographing these paintings and using the camera to tear the image from the natural world and then destroying them, the images became purely digital data. The paintings still existed but were now in an altered state, a state that was now to be manipulated and edited through use of digital technologies (Photoshop).

In some ways they became superficial, mirroring our transient immaterial selves/online persona, but the magic of them was not lost as they now existed in an ‘in-between’ state of reality—in touch with both the physical and digital environments we live in. These images would then be taken on a digital journey reflecting humanity’s technological evolution, attempting to explore what it means to be human in the present day through a series of transformative abstract artworks.

Origins, 2018, macro photographs of oil on canvas and on paper.

Transitions was the next stage of this process, the first stage of manipulation. The Origins images went through a surgery of blending and merging within Photoshop. This procedure brought clusters of images together to become one single image: a technique I frequently use to create my digital work. However, in this instance I feel the technique was more relevant than ever, symbolising this entwined relationship between humans and technologies and representing the merging of self and Other.

Transitions, 2018.

In the next stage, Transcendence, you bring back the digital to Origins or perhaps pre-Origins, to paper and canvas, but not quite in their original forms as they are, as you mention elsewhere, ‘reformed beneath the view of the digital’, before their departure to the digital realm in Evolve. Tell us more about the processes involved.

At this point in the process I wanted to find a way to further explore the dichotomy of the material/physical and immaterial/digital; for the images to transcend what they once were and become yet again altered, reformed and enhanced. I took this opportunity to also expand the mediums used within the project and began to consider creating film as yet another avenue of digital manipulation to explore.

Initially, I took the series of images in Transitions and transformed them into a moving image. The film highlighted the ebb and flow of evolution, the transformation of one thing to another, of growth and change, by depicting the imagery slowly morph into each other creating new forms. This film was then projected on to canvas and paper and re-photographed, bringing us in a circle back to my starting point. I felt this to be a significant part of the journey. This phase portrayed a suspended state between materiality and immateriality. The artwork was existing somewhere in the densely physical world yet also remained weightless and untouchable, much like the digital world.

Freya Nash has projected the film she created using the material in Transitions. In this photo the projection is done on to white papers hanging
Transcendence, 2018, projection on paper and canvas.

Evolve was another experimental stage of refiguring and manipulating the new images I had. In them you may see hints of their former selves, Origins, yet they have been on an obvious journey. They have evolved to become something hybrid, an amalgamation of painting, photography, film and projection, moving in and out of the computer and the real world, continually edited and processed. The unmistakable editing in these images is an effort to highlight this repeated digital manipulation.

Evolve, 2018.

Evolve then becomes a fingerprint, with a history that oscillates between the digital and the non-digital, between here and there, or perhaps residing in nowhere and carrying no history. Yet it supplies the next two sections with the [im]material: Silk Prints, and in the end, Unfixed. What was the process like and what ideas did you work with?

At this point I wanted to bring the artwork back into the material world. To create physical artworks which signified this evolutionary journey. The silk prints were my first way of doing this and they act almost as a rebirth of origins. I wanted them to embody my (post)human subject, echoing N. Katherine Hayles’ posthuman subject, ‘whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction’. Rather than printing onto paper or canvas, which was an obvious choice, I decided to print onto silk. This decision was important as I felt the material used had to retain fluidity and movement, symbolically representing the flow of evolution. Furthermore, as viewers brush past, or there is a draft of wind, the suspended silk ripples and moves. This response to environment reflects the symbolic nature of the process, of evolution and effect by external sources and entities.

Images from Evolve are printed onto silk.
Silk Prints, 2018, print on silk.

The Unfixed paintings were another attempt to bring the artworks to physicality. This series of paintings would represent the organic reformed, edited and enhanced: the evolved and transformed being. Linking back to Origins, the oil paint would again be used to represent the organic/human. However, these new paintings epitomise what it means to be human in the present day, to be the ‘new/(post)human’ whose existence is now so intertwined with digital technologies.

The paintings were created by amalgamating various sections of imagery within the film and subsequent digital images, once again using the method of blending and merging existing imagery to become something original and hybrid. They are deliberately unfinished as an acknowledgement of the notion that humanity and the world around us are still in the process of evolution, continually adapting and expanding. They hope to portray the uncertain yet limitless development of the human and respond to the idea that digital technologies have rendered humanity unfixed.

Oil on canvas painting by Freya Nash. Abstract painting using various colours resembling human body, perhaps. The artist painted this painting, together with others in Unfixed, by using the digital material from Evolve.
Unfixed III, 2018, oil on canvas.

Which individuals shaped your artistic imagination?

My artistic influencers range throughout the world of creatives. I am drawn to artists that respond to the human and/or body of course, and this spans across all artistic mediums. But if I really think about it, it is the work of painters that have drawn me in for as long as I can remember, whether they’re abstract or figurative or somewhere in-between. I suppose that’s why even the majority of my digital work derives from painting.

In terms of individuals in my life that have inspired me I would have to say my family. All of whom are highly creative in their own way, though not within visual arts. They always enabled and encouraged me to be creative myself and to continue making art even at times when it has been a challenge. I feel very lucky for that. In particular my brother, who we sadly lost almost three years ago, who taught me to be positive, motivated, and to believe in myself.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! I read a lot and go to exhibitions as much as I can. I think it’s important to look outwards and not get stuck in your own head. Talking to friends and other artists is also important and helps me to gain and solidify my ideas. But most importantly, as an artist who works in such an experimental and process-based way, it is my time actually making artwork that inspires new ideas and intentions.

What are you working on at the moment? Any projects on the horizon?

Currently I am working on a new series of paintings. These paintings will bring together some of the ideas explored in the Unfixed project (technology, evolution and the posthuman) with my past, more visceral-looking artwork.

Continuing to experiment with the fusion of the organic and the digital, which feels so relevant in the modern world I, once again, use oil paint to represent the organic/the human and to produce visceral, bodily-influenced paintings where the use of digital technologies is imperative in the creation of the composition. The end result is a series of paintings which feel fluid and organic yet surreal and unnatural.

Furthermore, the Renaissance techniques employed in the paintings (such as chiaroscuro) are used to represent the Enlightenment: a time of scientific discovery, the age of Humanism and the birth of the modern era. This new series of paintings stands to symbolise the current/modern age of scientific and technological discovery, the age of ‘posthumanism’ and the birth of a new era.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Hallo Laura. I absolutely love your artwork, your approach to your subject matter and how you translate your creative energy into matter. I look forward to seeing your next series of artworks.

    Keep going!

    Sincerely,
    Samantha

    Like

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