"Passion ! I don't think there are any rules ..."
Floyd and I had an amazing interview and discussion of her and her practice during lockdown. We discussed artistic identity, Game of Thrones, William Blake, her process, Pre-Raphalites and more.
Her ‘too big’ paintings are brimming over with visual delights; a feeling of horror vacui (Latin for fear of empty space) encompasses these monumental pieces. They are excessive, exuberant, gaudy and fabulous!
Our magpie instincts are drawn towards her works - I know mine was.
Living and working in London, Floyd studied Fine Art Painting at UAL, primarily working in oil paints but also textile and other elements.
Aby, it is such a thrill to interview you! Thank you so much. The first question I wanted to ask you was how were you trained?
I studied Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon Collage of Arts, UAL. However, I have found that my biggest lessons learnt actually happened before and after studying art at degree level.
I will always credit my A level textiles and art teaches for inspiring and motivating me to pursue my ambitions and experiment with materiality. I was also exposed to creativity from a young age, helping my mum on her stalls at craft fairs, and was always being encouraged to express my imagination.
I found it hard to keep momentum with my practice in my first year as a graduate, due to working long night shifts and struggling to grasp my artistic identity in this next chapter of life.
And what about after university?
A year after university I found myself working for an artist alongside eight other studio assistants, most of whom were artists themselves. Being thrown back into that creative environment, making art every day and surrounded by so many extortionary and inspiring like-minded people, really helped me find my feet again. It also gave me a much greater understand in how the artworld works at a more practical level and what I needed to do push my work further.
What an incredibly journey Aby. So, can you tell us a bit about your process, and how each of your artwork comes to be from imagination to life?
I always start with an idea which I will let sit in my head and develop there for at least a couple of weeks. A lot of the time the idea will come from absolutely nowhere, but other times it will be inspired by the reading or research I am doing. Once the idea has begun to grow, I will sketch certain elements of the idea and composition ideas, although I am very impatient at this step. I have really taught myself the need to slow down at this stage and try to refine my ideas rather than manically jumping right into them.
After sketching I create image boards and then eventually, I will make a digital composition/collage on photoshop. I tend to take my time with this and will make several different versions, usually fiddling with it for a week while I wait for specific materials for it to arrive. Sometimes I will write poetry to go with the work (although I never show anyone that), so that I can materialise the narrative I am feeling for the piece. It’s very important for me to involve textiles and iridescent elements so I need to decide which parts of the painting lend themselves to this role best to create a more dimensional and immersive piece.
Once the canvas is stretched and the image is drawn, I will work from the collage and get all my painting done first. Then I will do all the textiles elements, and then lastly, I add the embellishments, metallic highlights and embroidery after varnishing with a gloss varnish.
You’re an incredibly dedicated artist, with a fabulous process. Tell me, what do you believe is integral to the work of an artist?
Passion! I don’t think there are any rules here… I just think you have to love what you do.
Amazing words. I’ve been a fan of yours for so long now. I’d be fascinated to know, who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them? Is it something you see every day, do certain things stick out to you? And how do these come out in your work?
Anything that indulges in the liberation of imagination excited me. I draw inspiration from poetry and fairytales, human obsession with collection and curation, the Pre-Raphalites and the gaudy, psychedelic qualities we can find in nature.
I always find myself most drawn to textiles artists. For example, Michele Carragher, who does the embroidery on the Game of Thrones costumes, is the reason I taught myself to do hand embroidery and 3D insects to add to my work.
Game of Thrones costumes! I totally get that. How incredible.
In terms of literature (and philosophy and art), William Blake has always been one of my biggest influences. His imagery and views were so beautiful, and he was so ahead of his time.
Blake was hugely influenced by his complicated systems of colours in his work… tell me, is colour important to you?
Yes massively! All my work is disgustingly vibrant! I want my work to be over the top and over-ripe in every sense, everything must be in excess and colour is no exception! I will always choose whether the work is to be contrasted with gold or silver accents (in the textiles, highlights and backgrounds) and then choose a pallet from there. I have recently started to introduce some more neutral colours into my work to make the vibrant colours more effective, which I’ve enjoyed!
What is your intention with scale? Is scale important to you?
I don’t find the size of my paintings overly important. I really enjoying doing bigger work but I have to make sure its manageable with the intensity and time consuming nature of my process.
The scale of my subject matter is always too big, filling the canvas to the brim. There is a general feeling of horror vacui, which is Latin for the fear of empty space. I like playing with this because nature acts in the same way and it also feeds into the lavish and excessive qualities to my practice.
Aby, do you find the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
As much as I love and enjoy social situations, fortunately I fit into that introverted artist stereotype. I can work hour after hour, day after day, week after week, without much human contact, and be absolutely fine with it!
Perfect. And who might you say is your favourite historical female artist?
She is more of a poet, but I’d have to say Christina Rossetti. She wrote beautiful literature. Her brothers and their art-student friends formed the Pre-Raphilte Brotherhood, which she was desperate to join but could never be fully part of due to being a female. However, she still continued to write and her frustration against sexism is seen metaphorically in her poetry. I’m actually currently making a painting based on her poem Goblin Market.
Are there any up-and-coming female artists you have your eye on?
An artist that always sticks in my mind is Chitra Ganesh. I saw her work at Frieze London last year and fell in love. She does a lot of comic book style work, but what I really loved were her big, beautiful, whimsical paintings that had mixed media and textiles embellishing them. She’s not necessarily up-and coming as she is very successful, but I just think she is fab.
I also recently found Tuesday Riddell’s work on Instagram, she is one of my favourite artists I have seen for a while, her work is so intricate and alluring.
Last one, who should She Curates interview next?
Ellie Walker or Millie Kelly! Both good friends and amazing artists.