Here’s a Q&A I did with Chloe Early around the time of her most recent solo show in London in late 2008. Chloe’s next show, Chasing Castles, with Conor Harrington opens in Los Angeles in April, so hopefully there’ll be more pics, questions and cups of tea (roobois - so Dalston) to come. Pictured above are details from Bloom & Bounty and Foreign Correspondent.
The Eye of the Storm - Oil & Gloss on Aluminium
Chloe Early’s second solo show at The Stolen Space Gallery, Ladies and Gentlemen we are Spinning in Space, has just finished up. We asked Chloe about her new paintings, their connections with the Great Gatsby and speaking to yourself in French.
Let’s start at the top, or the title, where does the name “Ladies and Gentlemen…” come from?
The title came from an article I read last year about the band Spiritualized, some years ago they had an album called Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space and they had taken the title from a line in the book Sophie’s World.
“Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ they yell, ‘we are floating in space!’ But none of the people down there care.”
I liked both the title and the context from the book and decided to use it but changed floating to spinning. I thought spinning made a bit more sense with this body of work, I was thinking about the Earth spinning relentlessly round its own axis and then us circling the sun and all the toys and games we have invented that mirror that action from the spinning top to the helter skelter and big wheel.
Raft of the Seducer - Oil & Gloss on Linen
Can you tell me a little bit about how you come up with names for your pictures? Do you paint with certain titles in mind or are they irrelevant?
I think with the titles there is another chance to explain your ideas with words or confuse people even more whatever the case may be. Even though the titles aren’t in my mind when painting so much other stuff goes through me that it would seem a shame to call them “untitled”.
Playground of the Western World is one of my titles, obviously a take on the title Playboy of the Western World, a play by J M Synge. I would be lying if I said my painting had a link to the play but the working title for that painting was “the playground” and it came into my head the day I was thinking of the titles, it seemed to fit with what I wanted to say in the paintings in a more literal sense rather than in reference to the play. Other paintings use sayings like Eye of the Storm - hinting at trouble beneath a calm exterior.
Raft of the Seducer is a take on Raft of the Medusa, I’m not trying to align my painting with Gericault, but when I was painting I did think of the buoy that the girl floats on as a raft and I liked that association in my mind, rafts seem primitive and feature often in films, stories, myths as a possible salvation or bridge from wilderness to civilization. Seducer has the same amount of syllables as Medusa so the sound fit quite nicely. You can read a lot into it or nothing at all the same as with the pictures, I allow myself to make associations visual and lingual.
Despite their bright colours and attractive subjects, your paintings seem to have dystopian undertones - is the world you depict in your paintings a happy one?
For me, in the paintings there is a sense of celebration but also a feeling of foreboding. Not quite sure if this is heaven or a lovely moment just before or after the fall but the rules have changed. I hope there is the possibility of redemption, I wouldn’t say they are either happy or sad.
Bloom & Bounty - Oil & Gloss on Aluminium
You seem to prefer painting on mediums like aluminium and linen instead of canvas. Why is this?
Linen is very similar to canvas but a nicer colour, I eat brown bread so I thought it would be nice to go for the wholemeal version of canvas. The aluminum is something I was doing when I did a lot of industrial landscapes and I thought it suited the subject matter, also it was a nice contrast to my intimate style of painting and I got used to it and have continued.
Compared to your last Stolen Space show, the natural world has been given greater prominence this time out, but it’s still vying with the urban world, almost like the two are fighting for control. Do you ever feel like you want to explore just one or the other?
I did feel like I had done the industrial landscape thing but I still wanted there to be an urban backdrop to the figures and animals in these paintings, for the combination of imagery to be unexpected and surprising and to reveal something about the gulf between the way we live and dream about living.
The people in your paintings remind me of another time and another style…romantic and nostalgic like a Scott-Fitzgerald novel. Whom did you model the subjects after and what was the source of this inspiration?
The Great Gatsby is etched into my memory from my Leaving Cert days, but not something I had before thought of in connection with my work. Now you say it I can see the similarities, the characters seem to languish in a forgotten dream world of innocence, excess and desire haunted only by the possibility or knowledge that their dream will fragment.
For this exhibition I used figures taken from travel magazines and adds. I think it is those same qualities of impermanence, an innocence steeped in glamour that attracted me, its the contrast between an escapist fantasy and an urban reality that I find interesting.
In a lot of the work, we see the people’s backs and not their fronts, is there a reason for this?
I think of the figures as a tool for understanding the landscape, so we can see it through their eyes, if you look at Casper David Friedrich, he did that a lot. We become a second viewer, almost God like, looking down on or into the presented world (like the big eyes in Great Gatsby).
There is, for me, a collage element to the work. Would you agree? If so, where are you pulling things from?
Yes I think of them as painted collages. I get the images from everywhere, my own photos, Google images, magazines, newspapers. I try to use images that are throw away and don’t really belong to anybody else in a artistic way.
I like the vibe when I look at the work. It feels warm and nostalgic but also temporary, like a summer fling. Is there anything you can relate this to? Is this something related to how you were feeling when you painted them or is it something about you more generally? Do you have any negative emotions in any of your work?
I like to flirt with the possibility of danger or destruction in my work, building sites, abandoned cities, packs of wolves, herds of wild beasts but, however or whatever I paint, it always seems to come out soft and dreamy.
Nature’s First Lady - Oil & Gloss on Aliminium
Do you ever get the equivalent of writer’s block (something which I was born with)? How do you get passed it?
I get anxiety all the time, at the end when I look at my paintings I am always surprised that they seem to have escaped from that feeling that I have so much when working. I try to be distant from my work and make the right decisions, at the end it is hard, at the moment I am tired after this exhibition but still I am looking forward to starting new work, it’s a paradox. There is always hope that the next thing I do will be better, one day if I keep practicing I might do something really good - thats what drives me.
How do you know when you’re done with a painting? What do you look for to say - “voila! c’est fini!”?
I think of it like a conversation, every day you look at a painting it says something, one day you look at it and it is silent - and voila you start speaking to yourself in French.
Do you think about your paintings when they’re gone?
Only as a way to help what I’m working on, how did I figure it out the last time and I look at photos to try to remember, mostly I am only interested in whatever I am working on at that time.
Originally posted in richandcreamy.org, 2008.