Introducing Henrietta Dubrey, the artist behind the enigmatic gaze of ‘The Girl’, the centrepiece artwork featured in the Battersea Spring campaign (12 – 15 March, Battersea Evolution).
The British artist lives and works in picturesque West Cornwall, where she creates figurative and abstract paintings. Henrietta is inspired by the female figure, modern-day femininity, color and shape, motivating her diverse practice.
MEET THE ARTIST: HENRIETTA DUBREY
How does it feel to see your work as the face of Affordable Art Fair’s new Battersea Spring campaign?
Very exciting indeed! I am thrilled that my painting ‘The Girl’ has been chosen to use for the advertising campaign – it feels brilliant to have this level of exposure for my paintings!
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and how your artistic career began?
I am the youngest of three children and my parents always encouraged creativity. My father was an architect and keen painter himself. We visited art galleries and friends who were artists and each year we holidayed in St Ives Cornwall which is near to where I live and work now. It was, and still is, a hub of artists; there is a beautiful light, stunning rugged landscape and a real sense of freedom experienced in living here. To a young impressionable mind, these childhood holidays sparked ideas of becoming a professional painter in the future. I always had a sketchbook to hand and always knew I wanted to be an artist. Subsequently I went to art school for a total of eight years and began to have exhibitions as soon as I graduated.
You mention that your art is often characterised as abstract, but you would describe these paintings as “autobiographical deconstructions and reconstructions of life” – could you expand on your practice and how it has evolved over the years?
I like to work in both the figurative and abstract genre at the same time and I find that one informs the other and vice versa. The way I apply paint is universal to my practice, and I always feel that whatever I am painting there is often an autobiographical feeling to the subject, be it conscious or subconscious. Early on I was fairly obsessed with drawing figures and I was lucky enough at school, whilst studying for A Levels to be introduced to life drawing, with a nude model. Abstract ideas started to appear in my painting early on at art school, when I was introduced to more art history and felt I wanted to experiment more with pure ideas, color and composition. After my first degree in fine art I went on to study at London’s Royal Academy Schools, where a strong tradition of life drawing is encouraged. This is when I began to work with both genres again and to exhibit the paintings alongside each other.
Currently my abstracts are about the exploration of color and shape and how these can affect our mood and the way we feel, in much the same way that our mood can be affected by listening to certain types of music. They are quite organic and free, whereas my current figurative pieces are more narrative and explore concepts of how it feels to be human, social, female, quiet, busy and interactive.
What areas of art and culture are you most inspired by?
I love looking at real paintings in the flesh, in galleries. We are very lucky to have Tate St Ives here in Cornwall which I can visit frequently to see examples of the mid generation St Ives artists including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Sandra Blow, Bryan Wynter, Peter Lanyon, all of whom have inspired me since I was a child and was first introduced to their work through the family holidays to St Ives.
When I get the chance, I like to spend a few days in London visiting the main galleries such as the Tate and The Royal Academy to see major exhibitions. But my favorite thing to do is go between the many private gallery spaces mainly around Mayfair and Bond Street to see more contemporary shows in galleries.
Another major obsession I have is printed matter in the form of the myriad contemporary art and fashion magazines currently enjoying a real revival. I like to surround myself with paintings and photography too, a constant form of stimulation and inspiration keeping me up to date with the current zeitgeist.
Who is your favorite artist?
I think for a creative it is impossible to have one favorite artist. Also, one’s tastes change over time. It is also dependent on whether I am in figurative or abstract mode. Here are a few of my absolute faves!: Pablo Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Joan Mitchell, Francesco Clemente, Roger Hilton, Howard Hodgkin, Jenny Saville…
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t ever stop painting… and from the same person… You make your own luck!
Thanks Henrietta, we can’t wait to see your work at the Battersea Spring edition of the Affordable Art Fair (12 –15 March, Battersea Evolution), where it will be displayed on the Edgar Modern, stand E2. Don’t forget to snap up a ticket in advance, to browse thousands of works all priced between £100 and £6,000.
A sneak peek into Henrietta Dubrey’s studio, located in St Ives, Cornwall, England.
Featured art from first to last:
Painter, Henrietta Dubrey.
Henrietta Dubrey, The Girl, oil on canvas, 48 x 38 cm, £1,395, Edgar Modern.
Henrietta Dubrey in her studio.
Affordable Art Fair Battersea Spring campaign image.
Behind the scenes in Henrietta Dubrey’s studio.