Laurence Causse-Parsley, Mixed media contemporary art

An interview by Flux Review Magazine April 2020

Laurence Causse-Parsley  (LAC) was born in France, educated in Paris and Britain, LAC’s first solo exhibition took place in India in 2003.  Lac lived for 10 years in Asia, India, Taiwan and Thailand. Relocated to London in 2010 where she set up her studio at Make Space Studios in the vibrant London South East. Shuttling between countries and cultures, LAC takes the freedom to select materials from changing contexts, the result being a very distinctive style best described as contemporary, dense, vibrant, and evocative.  Her immediate environment, London, the embodiment of all the cities she lived in or imagined, and the everyday world are her uninterrupted source of inspiration. A simple bus ride becomes an opportunity to mentally collect lines, shapes, colours, and perspectives as the material for future painting. The unsung urban traces grab her attention, reappearing as a touch of nostalgia in her work. As a result, LAC’s work can be seen as daily visual diary of life in a 21st century European city.

Self-taught or art school?

I did not go to art school. I studied political sciences in France and England. Yet I don’t consider myself self-taught. My art education was fragmented and multi-faceted, mainly acquired by attending other artists workshops. Yves Desvaux-Veeska, a French artist who introduced me to mixed media painting and abstraction, helped me find my “voice” in art. There after I would say that each new experience, Roman mosaic at the City Lit, art enamels in India, oil painting in Bangkok, Chinese art history training in Taipei have enriched my practice. Today, I still occasionally wander out of my daily mixed media practice by taking classes in portraiture and life drawing.

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

Lee Krasner’s Icarus. When it was on display at The Barbican, I kept going back to immerse myself in it. I was overwhelmed by joy, I felt completely alive when I observed it. Icarus felt like the blood in my veins.

How would you describe your style?

“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painterPaulKlee (1879–1940), The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898-1918, entry for April 16, 1914 (1957, trans. 1965)

At the very centre of my style is colour. All colours. I don’t believe in liking or not liking a colour. I don’t get it when someone tells me that they don’t like yellow or green. How can you not like one of the hundred nuances of yellow or one of the thousand ways a yellow will react when associated with another colour? Colour is the magical element of a painting, the one that hits you in and overwhelms you.

As a result of my process -I always start a painting by applying colours in a gestural way. This phase is a pure joy for my senses. I use spatulas, brushes, my fingers, and cardboard, to spread, squash, throw colours on the surface. I enhance this process by using different media, acrylic, inks, enamel paint, pastels, collages- my style can be described as semi-abstract, vibrant, textured, coloured and very detailed.

When the surface is covered by these layers of colours and textures, I use this first outline of composition to build up with acrylic pens a semi-abstract a landscape, full of lines and details inspired by what I observe outside in the streets.

The resulting atmosphere is between reality and dream, a superposition of memories and places, an unknown and familiar space at the same time, in which, I hope, the viewer will feel inclined to go and rest, or explore and travel.

Where are your favourite places to view art?

Any church with stained glass windows design by a modern or contemporary artist.

Le Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Gallery Victoria Miro in Islington, London.

Who are your favourite artists and why?

I have an eclectic pantheon, bear with me if the list is a bit long….

– Lucas Cranach the Elder for his decorative forms and his liveliness of presentation.

– Bonnard for the vibrancy of his paintings depicting views from a window and gardens (Ha! The studio with mimosa!).

– Hundertwasser, architect and painter, for the Hundertwasser Haus in Vienna (­­­a real epiphany when I stumbled on them by chance many years ago) and his paintings full of life and colours.

– Schiele’s, Giacometti’s and Marlene Dumas’ deeply moving portraits.

– Lee Krasner for her abstract colourful paintings like a splash of life in the viewer’s face.

– Soulages’s abstract monumental paintings, an invitation to meditation through the nuances of black.

  • The sculptures of Barbara Hepworth for their energy and their sensuality, their link to Cornwall.
  • The installations of Ai Wei Wei where the form and the message are one, powerful and beautiful.
  • A Provencal painter, Isirdi, for his expressionist renditions of the beautiful Provence landscapes.

What or who inspires your art?

For the past 5 years, I have explored my immediate environment, London as the embodiment all the cities I lived in or imagined. The everyday world is my uninterrupted source of inspiration. A simple bus ride becomes an opportunity to mentally collect lines, shapes, colours, and perspectives as the material for future painting. The unsung urban traces grab my attention, reappearing as a touch of nostalgia in my work. As a result, my urban landscapes can be seen as daily visual diary of life in a 21st century European city.

My fascination for the urban landscape in permanent flux around me is rooted in my personal history. My father was an architect. I grew up with blueprints and their persistant ammonia odour piled up in the car, visits to building sites, my father’s two-tier case of colouring pens, colours sample’s swatches. He was passionate about architecture and he was a fan of my artistic take on it. In my studio, I used his square and rulers, continuing a silent dialogue with him. I also keep in my studio a small battered watercolour travel box which belonged to my grand-father an engineer with a passion for painting with whom I used to go to art exhibitions.

Where’s your studio and what’s it like?

I am part of the Make Space Studios in London SE1.

It is a fabulous and quirky place, by the Waterloo station rail tracks. Freezing and humid in Winter, boiling hot in Summer.

Yet from the windows overlooking the rail tracks, the location offers the best views on urban landscape you can wish for, old and new, industrial or refined architectural elements mixing in fantastic layers, perspectives and lights. The screeching of the trains’ brakes on the rails as they come in Waterloo is the tempo of my work day.  When your inspiration dries up, you can get out and refuel your spirit at the Tate Modern in less than 20mn.

Make Space It is home to all kind of creative people, offering opportunities of interesting collaborations and we open our doors once a year to the public.

Do you have any studio rituals?

I go to the studio nearly every day. The regularity in one’s practice is essential and it comes with bad days and all. You stay put, you fight trough, you keep on working. It always comes back, the inspiration, the fluidity, the absolute happiness of creating.

My studio is not a cocoon. I needed a space with no barriers to my experimenting and messing up with paint. So, my studio is messy, chaotic especially when I am in the middle of creating a series and several art works are going on simultaneously. The threat of wet paint or pigment dust on one’s clothes is always there. The only comfortable corner is a small sofa to rest and read. It is the only paint free space for visitors or artist friends with whom you exchange ideas, doubts and encouragements.

As I started painted at home, abroad, through many moves from houses to houses, countries to countries, I resolved not to let my environment limit my ability to paint. Hence, I have very few rituals apart from changing into work clothes, black tea with milk at hand and a good podcast or audiobook to listen to. And once or twice a year a very big clean-up to recover some space mentally and physically, to start afresh a new series.

What are you working on currently?

I started keeping a record of all the urban writings I encounter when traveling in town. The first one which challenged me stands at the entrance of the Albert Bridge “Troops to break step whilst crossing the bridge”.

Once you start, you cannot help but noticing them everywhere, on walls, on boards, on the floor. Sometimes they are intriguing when coming from the past.  More often they are strong injunctions and orders with all kind of threats attached if you ever you failed to obey. Their design is an interesting material as well for my paintings.

My new series with titles such 24h access, Device thermal imaging, Detection and Prosecution explores the tensions between the planning and development of the urban space meant to allow and facilitate human activities and the vocabulary developed to regulate these activities and exchanges.

What are your ambitions?

The day I decided to dedicate myself full time to painting, I found my place in the world. I was 37. It was time. I had tried different professional paths and they did not lead anywhere. I felt cornered and inadequate.

Nowadays I feel lucky each time I walk to my studio. Or when a thought or an observation, which may become a painting, comes to my mind. It is not a grand declaration; it is not a big place. It is simply a way of moving from one day to the next on my own terms.

The world makes sense if I paint, hence my main ambition is to find opportunities allowing me to do just that, exhibitions, collaborations, projects, exchanges with other artists and along the way being able to share my paintings with a broader audience of art lovers and collectors.