Chloe’s talents are many. She is a fabulous fine art photographer, and mixed-media printmaker, best known for her circular cyanotypes and still life photography of feathers, all working in her London studio.
Her recurring themes are those of female empowerment, science, natural history as she works to construct these striking visual narratives from the lives of extraordinary and trailblazing women.
"Female empowerment, natural history and science"
My first question for you, chloe, is what do you want your work to say?
Female empowerment, natural history and science are recurring themes in my work, constructing visual narratives from the lives of extraordinary, trailblazing women - celebrating their achievements, uncovering their struggles and chronicling the stories of these often unsung heroes.
I hope my visual storytelling ignites imaginations and rouses a curiosity to delve deeper and discover more about the lives of these remarkable women. I want people to feel connected, connected to their stories and to notice the unnoticed.
These unique portraits have a distinctive painterly characteristic made by embracing technological advances in large-scale negative printing whilst staying true to the purest and earliest forms of photographic techniques. I examine complex interactions between human experience, environment, materials used, light and time combined with deconstructing and reconstructing images to create intriguing surrealistic stories.
By creating an army of girl heroes/ sheroes I'm attempting to give them a voice, to transform their stories into symbolic, pictorial form and in turn hoping these protagonists' positive message empowers and inspires others.
I love that. And why the focus on cyanotypes?
I focused on using cyanotypes after revisiting my research on British botanist and photographer Anna Atkins. Atkins used cyanotypes to document algae specimens for her scientific reference books and in the process established photography as an accurate medium for scientific illustration.
It seemed a fitting tribute to use a light-sensitive process pioneered by a female scientist and fellow photographer in creating my series of inspirational ladies the eye cannot see. To convey the complexities of time, light, space and reveal experience, it is much more fitting for me to use a combination of traditional image-making techniques with the added use of modern technology.
So Chloe what was your earliest memory involving art? Do you remember?
I received my first ‘build it yourself’ camera kit at age 6. I was fascinated with how technology operated and kept wanting to deconstruct and reconstruct things to gain a better understanding of their inner workings. My love of photography sort of developed from there, strengthened by frequent trips to the library to study science and art books enabled me to learn more about art, history and creative techniques.
That's so inspiring from such a young age.
I still remember my first easel, apron and paint set, I loved creating. I was always given the freedom to express myself creatively, to experiment and explore different mediums and crafts at home and at school. This facilitated the honing of expertise and development of my own personal style before going on to study art at a higher level.
And I know some of your colours are dictated a bit by your technique, but tell us about your colour palette?
Using a simplistic, yet effective monochromatic colour palette of Prussian blue and white from the cyanotype process, I create unique ghostlike, x-ray silhouettes suspended deep inside the paper's surface embodying a painterly and distinctive visual characteristic creating an otherworldly pictorial aesthetic from the light-sensitive process.
By going beyond the blue, I am creating a majestic modern aesthetic to this antiquarian photographic technique. The addition of pure gold, copper and zinc leaf by hand adds intensity to the tonal and textural qualities of the piece and honours the materials used. Allowing each separate element to support the others, not one overpowering the other, adding depth and uncovering the non-perfect surface beauty below. Using naturally occurring chemicals, cotton and precious metals combined with the sun's rays and water is one of the purest forms of photosensitive image-making that has stood the testament of time from its discovery in 1842.
That's incredible. I've always been fascinated to know about your process as well from these techniques. How does each piece come to be?
Each piece is constructed from scratch, fabricating the paper or porcelain foundation, starting the life cycle, building up the layers. I hand finish my pieces with precious and chemically treated metals to enhance the textural quality of the surface, revealing hidden details and creating an evolving luminous landscape.
I love to celebrate the naturally occurring materials I use, the way they were so exquisitely made, letting their organic textures emanate, the undulations of the paper sheets and the hand deckled edges be seen.
Each piece of handmade paper is a work of art in itself, the recycled cotton rag pulp creates the base structure upon which to let my pieces develop. I love watching the way the tones of the cyanotype chemicals develop on the porous surfaces, the way they evolve during exposure to natural sunlight and seeing the colour intensify when washing in water.
I apply multiple layers of size (a type of glue) with a paintbrush onto all the areas I wish to cover with the metal leaf, leave to cure for 12-24 hours until tacky to touch, then carefully apply each sheet using a variety of gilding brushes to avoid tearing. Once in place, I smooth out the creases, press firmly into the crevices of the handmade paper and brush away the excess, leave to set for a week or so and then prepare the piece for framing.
Do you have any advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Don’t be afraid to experiment and push boundaries in your practice, take risks in order to develop ideas further and advance your skillset.
Be prepared to make mistakes! So many things are trial and error, if something hasn’t gone according to plan don’t treat it as a failure, regard it more as a means of learning, enabling one to revisit past ideas in order to create new bodies of work.
It's so easy to be discouraged isn't it.
Try not to become frustrated if your journey into the art world seems to be taking longer than you anticipated, these things take time and shouldn't be rushed, savour these moments, enjoy the ride and make as many connections as possible along the way. I’ve been slowly working my way up to being a fulltime professional artist for a number of years now, and every day I’m learning, adapting, growing as a person as a businesswoman and as a creative.
And lastly, accept feedback whether it be positive or negative in your stride, this is how you develop as an artist both conceptually and methodically. Art is subjective and everyone's tastes differ. When receiving a critical comment don’t let it dampen your creativity or quash your confidence, instead use it as a means to question, enlighten and develop future work and ideas.
You're one of mine... but who are YOUR favourite female artist working at the moment?
Sarah Moon, Tacita Dean, Kiki Smith, Sophie Calle, Diane Arbus, Mari Mahr, Susan Derges
Apart from them, where do you get your inspiration?
From an early age, I immersed myself in books, my love of historical research and scientific experimentation has always played a pivotal role in developing ideas, constructing narratives and creating art filled with playful enchantment, metamorphic imagination and above all knowledge. The exploration of the world around me both past and present and reaching beyond the boundaries of ‘normal everyday’ sight are all centralised in my artistic practice.
By exploring the base elements of historical image-making, in particular cameraless photography and cyanotypes, I aim to push the boundaries of how we view photographic portraiture in the modern digital realm. I examine and develop innovative ways of reworking photographic, painted and illustrated images through the medium of hand-cut collage and mixed-media print techniques by blending science, darkroom alchemy and fine art.
Initially, I studied fine art, I then went onto focus more on lens-based image-making, studying and lecturing in photography and interactive media. I was interested in utilising my fine art training within my photographic practice, so researched ways of approaching a new way of image-making as a process built up of multiple layers and artistic techniques rather than just straight photography.
Freedom and experimentation for me were key factors in developing my personal style, through rule-breaking and blending art forms and techniques together, taking inspiration from traditional approaches to image-making with a contemporary technological twist; a fusion of art, photography and science.
I like to be as hands-on as possible when creating my pieces, celebrating every stroke, every mark made, every layer added, every material used and every texture uncovered. It all becomes a part of the human visual narrative built over time from conscious thought and personalised by touch.
I take a rather scientific, deconstructive approach to realising a piece of work, stripping down each process and technical element to the bare bones. One needs to be fully aware and appreciative of the way things work, evolve and interact in order to capture what the naked By exploring the basic elements of historical image-making, in particular cameraless photography and cyanotypes, I wanted to push the boundaries of how we view photographic portraiture in the modern digital realm. I examine and develop innovative ways of reworking photographic, painted and illustrated images through the medium of hand-cut collage and mixed-media print techniques by blending science, darkroom alchemy and fine art.
The history of the Natural World, Anatomy and Science Art has always fascinated me, their intertwining/ interplay has always been a major focus in my work and exploration of methodology. Enhancing appreciation for the world around us, uncovering it’s vulnerabilities, celebrating it’s often overlooked aesthetic value and in turn communicating our responsibility to preserve and conserve it for future generations to enjoy.
The natural world is full of important connections amongst people, plants, animals and our environment. Everything is related, connected, part of a chain, a cycle. Art is devoted to exploring our relationships to subject matter, materials, environment, creating a narrative, a record, a footprint. I’ve always been curious to discover and to greater understand my relationships with science, nature and art.
So in answer to your question, everything in the natural, scientific and historical world inspires me! The intricate patterns, ages, evolution, the sheer size, the delicate composition, the unseen, the undiscovered, the vibrant colour palettes, the smells, the way every sense is touched. Those fugacious moments in time that human consciousness often forgets to acknowledge are the things I hold dearest. This noticing of the unnoticed, revealing of discarded beauty, exposing layers and exploring space and time beyond the boundaries of ‘normal/ everyday’ sight plays a centralised role in my artistic practice.
I know we've talked about this before, but what part does shape play in your work?
Circular forms and cycles feature heavily within my creating my collections of work.
The history of the Natural World, anatomy and science art has always fascinated me, everything is related, connected, part of a chain, a cycle, an ever-revolving and evolving changing, hence the idea of using circles arose.
These ideas are reflected throughout my working methodology from the creation of the paper (handmade from recycled cotton rags and circular moulds), within the construction of the images themselves, (featuring circular motifs and objects from Petri dishes to the moon), the process of exposing using natural light and washing in moonlight, in all weather conditions throughout the seasons, and the circular theme carries through to framing the finished pieces in hand made round frames.
The circular paper shapes not only represent a life cycle, borne from human touch and made of recycled materials, they also take on a new life once coated with the light-sensitive solutions, left to dry and exposed to the elements of sun, rain, snow and water over time. The process of capturing and recording Mother Nature in all her glory, and creating artworks using her power just all seemed to fit perfectly with the feminine message and motifs within my work.
It is a marriage of natural phenomena and artist intent, a harmonisation of the natural and human worlds. I became more aware of how I wished to use these experiments and research within my pieces as a metaphor and a commemoration of mother nature and science's astounding power.
All works are housed in handcrafted circular frames, each one float mounted to showcase the circular organic form of the handmade paper, the unique texture, the surface undulations and rough deckled edges. Each piece casts a silhouette, an ever changing landscape dependent on the angle of the sun or light source.
The circular frames give flexibility when hanging artworks of differing sizes grouped together, creating an impactful cascading constellation, weaving intriguing stories throughout the home each one like a portal into another dimension, drawing you closer to discover what’s inside, inviting you to explore the lives of these ladies the learn about the historical process used in creating them.