Artist of the Month: Laura Melissa Williams

We are delighted to introduce August’s Artist of the Month, Laura Melissa Williams. Laura is a mixed media artist and photographer, with a core specialism in ink and bleach painting – she is most well known for her paintings of cities at night from space.

Laura’s passion is learning about and representing the language of the skies and the systems of the earth in her art practice. She uses her experiences in the air and above the land as inspiration for new visual narratives. Developing her passion for exploring our world from different perspectives, Laura is now a certified paragliding club pilot.

Laura is self-taught and currently studying a Diploma in Fine Art at the Art Academy in London. She grew up in a rural village in North Yorkshire and now live and works back in London – the city where she was born.

We sat down with Laura to find out more about the inspiration between her stunning take on cityscapes. Read in the interview in full below and catch her taking over our ARTIQ Instagram channel from the 20th-24th August, as Laura gives us an exclusive look behind the scenes of her ideas, process and works in progress. Follow ARTIQgram for more.

Take us through the lifespan of creating a work of art.
It’s different every time. I could say that sometimes artworks start years before I even put pen to paper – sometimes it’s the idea you have that is sticky – it just won’t leave your mind! Sometimes my ideas build bit by bit over years – until the moment where you realise that you have to do something about it.

How does material/medium inform your practice?
With my ink and bleach painting the medium naturally informs the subjects I’m interested in and choose to paint. With other works – such as my recent installation, the idea came first and various mediums were experimented with and then chosen that I felt would most strongly portray my thinking. I am still building my art practice and enjoying learning how to use new mediums and observing the mediums I’m naturally drawn to.

How has your work developed over time?
I have always experimented with and used mixed media, including acrylics, pencil, charcoal and I love what happens when you bring various and sometimes conflicting media together in one piece.

A core aspect of my art practice is painting with inks, bleach and gold leaf: mastering this tricky technique and developing my own unique style took over 4 years. I add layers of ink and then strip away layers using various strengths of bleach to create luminosity and contrast. I love that this medium is one that you can never completely control – with sometimes unexpected results.

More recently I’ve been experimenting with digital and 3D: creating installations, playing around with sculpture, film, and and animation. I’m increasingly moving towards a participatory art practice – where people can contribute towards or influence the making of a art piece. I am excited to be a translator and provocateur that builds on new and emerging human behaviours and societal shifts.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
I recently curated an installation entitled ‘Matters of the Heart: Finding Love in a Modern World’ – this piece was curated using 5 separate artworks including 40 poems crowdsourced from the internet about the modern realities of dating. The installation appealed to a broad spectrum of people – including people who are single, in relationships or married) and intended to hold a mirror up to ourselves and the growing lack of empathy in how we treat each other.

How do you see your art as a part of our society?
I think art can be about many things – in my pieces I hope to highlight both the beauty of the human race and everything we create as well as the impact we have on nature, our world and each other. Art has the power to provoke, question, reflect upon, represent and show what could be and I hope we never have to live in a world where art wasn’t part of it.

Has any place or environment affected your work?
I’m a big believer that place and environment massively impacts your work – either consciously or subconsciously.

Tell us about your dream project.
I would love to do a large scale participatory artwork with the public. I have a few ideas that are brewing for this…

What artists have influenced your practice?
Tacita Dean – I love her large scale landscapes and cloud paintings using simple materials. The way she narrates over them with scrawling handwriting adds for me that touch of personalisation from the artist.

Peter Lanyon – a Cornish painter of landscapes leaning towards abstraction – he was one of the most important artists to emerge in post-war Britain.

Lanyon took up gliding as a pastime and this influenced much of his work. As a recently qualified paragliding club pilot I am inspired less by his works and more about the way he talks about his experiences of flight and how it informed his art practice.

Chiharu Shiota – I love her installations – fragile, beautiful, overwhelming, awe-inspiring. They make you feel emotional which I intend to continue building into my art practice.

Georgiana houghton – I love her spirit drawings. They’re delicate and beautiful, yet powerful. Her use of colour I also find inspiring.

John Martin – in my opinion the king of apocalyptic art – he was born in Hexham, Northumberland – a place close to where I grew up.

Gustav Klimt – love, sexuality, death and everything inbetween. I find his works fragile, tender, powerful.

Lee Mingwei – creating experiences around human emotion – in particular I love his piece ‘100 days with Lily’ – where he chose to live 24/7 with (and record his experience of) a lily he’d planted for the 100 days following his grandmother’s death, as a form of ritual grieving for her.

What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?
I loved Lee Bul at the Hayward. I loved her large scale sculptures, response to politics and how she both creates and questions the future…

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
I would do what I’ve done throughout my parallel career – using creative approaches to bring talented people together to work on and solve social challenges or improve business. I am interested in technology, systems, nature and human behaviours – these are all areas I’ve worked in through my career – they now inform my art.

What art do you, or would you, collect?
I collect small pieces off emerging artists I love – pieces include limited edition prints, original printing plates, felt artwork and original paintings. I recently invested in a Hokusai print of swifts flying through a hole in the trunk of a tree and am on the lookout for my next piece – probably a wire sculpture.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Friends, family…and baked camembert. Ok, that’s three.

What do you do in your spare time?
I recently learnt to paraglide. I love being high up: seeing the world from above and moving through landscapes like a bird. I actually have a natural fear of heights – I’m fine on glass floors high-up or anything with railings, but put me on the edge of a cliff or a rock-climbing wall and I’m pretty damn scared. So this was a huge lesson in overcoming fear. Learning to fly has influenced my artwork, especially my aerial maps of cities at night from space.

I’m also a bit of a geek and love reading Sci-fi!

What advice would you give a younger you?
Build fun and humour into the everyday and to nourish creativity and give it the space to breathe. I believe that creativity is becoming increasingly important in the world we live in, both to question what is culturally normal and imagine and create how we want to live and thrive in the future.

I also think there are many ways to invest in the future – health, friends, doing what you love…