‘Diasporic, playful, and dignified’ is how Haywood describes her work in three words. The glorious, often digital works of Lauren Haywood.
An artist since nursery, Haywood specialises in digital work, though often works in other disciplines such as moulding and casting. She loves resin for its versatility, and has previously created sculptures out of metal, glass and resin casting with rice.
These glorious portraits, executed in a traditional composition, give such depth, such personality to the subjects, referenced from every day people including from facebook and instagram.
What 3 words would you use to describe your artwork?
Diasporic, playful, and dignified
What was your earliest memory surrounding art?
My earliest artistic memories were probably formed at nursery. I remember bursting into tears every day at the same time, because our craft hour always ended at 1pm. I really felt like my little world was ending when I had to part with the paper and glitter glue each afternoon 😂
You are so multi-disciplinary! Digital, painting and more. Tell us about your process? How does each work come to fruition? Do you plan, or are you spontaneous?
I’m often inspired by things that I’ve read or images that I’ve encountered. Sometimes I’ll scroll past an image on Instagram that I consider to be so beautiful, I feel compelled to give my own artistic take on it. Or at times I’ll come across an anecdote so powerful and relevant to my experience, that it sparks something within me. It’s the faces, histories and aesthetics I’m exposed to that spark that initial idea.
The process of turning that idea into a fully formed piece often includes meticulous and detailed planning, but the appropriate choice of medium always seems to be immediately apparent to me.
What is your preferred medium to work with?
I love working digitally, but I’m honestly more of a hands on artist. I really enjoy the processes of moulding and casting for example. I’ve fallen in love with resin through the years; it’s just such a versatile material. I’ve used it to create metallic sculptures, clear/glass-like sculptures, and I even filled a resin casting with rice for one piece. The possibilities with resin seem endless and the finishes I’m able to achieve with it are always so pristine.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
My practice essentially consists of portraits, which I produce in forms that range from traditional canvas paintings to three-dimensional chocolate sculptures. At some point during the process of making them, some sort of magic happens, and they start to take on their own individual persona. When a piece begins to exude a presence or personality, it means that, to some extent, whatever story or experience I was working to embed within it has suddenly come to life. That’s when I know that my work is done.
What are your ideal conditions to paint? What is your studio like? And what are your artist essentials to work?
I’m quite highly organised in terms of my work space. I like everything to be ‘just so’, much to the amusement of my colleagues. My artist’s essentials would probably be my journal, a biro pen to sketch and note-take within that journal, and a bag of either air-dry or polymer clay, both of which I love using to quickly sculpt out my concepts as I begin the process of bringing them off the page and into the real world.
You paint the most gorgeous faces. Who are these womxn? What are their stories?
Thank you! And they’re honestly just every day people. I often take my references from Instagram and Twitter, so these tend to be black women who are either creatively photographing themselv
What do you hope your works say?
I really hope that my works bring hope, joy, and an understanding of our shared histories to all the African and Caribbean diasporas. I really hope black women are able to look at my work, feel that they are part of something huge that extends all the way back to the dawn of humanity, and really feel a sense of PRIDE IN WHO THEY ARE. I am just one woman of a strong, culturally rich, intelligent, resourceful, and proud line of women that stretches back centuries. The women I seek to uplift within my practice are my sisters. We all have the same fantastic lineage. Our heritage and history has survived within us for generations through the worst and most horrific suffering ever known. I hope that my works successfully impart these tales of strength, perseverance, beauty, and pride, and that they inspire those exact same things in each and every person who experiences them.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration? How do you believe this inspiration comes out in your work?
I would definitely say that my family are my biggest inspiration. I am surrounded by very loving and passionate people, who instilled within me - from a very young age - the desire to do what is right, to speak up against that which is wrong, and to love my blackness with every fibre of my being. In particular, I have been inspired by my grandparents throughout my life. I have the utmost respect for them. Both my grandparents made Britain their home in the sixties, and belong to generation Windrush, and the racist abuse they encountered upon arrival was unimaginable. As I have grown older, more and more of the fantastic anecdotes of their lives have been shared with me. I never cease to be amazed by their strength, their pride, and their seemingly endless ambition. Their experience, and my gratitude to them for the many sacrifices they made on behalf of my mother and her siblings, influences all my work. I am constantly in search of ways to show my appreciation for those who have come before me, and the sacrifices they have made to allow me the plethora of opportunities I have today.
If you could own one piece of artwork in the world, as if money or likelihood was no issue, what would it be and why?
I would love to own any of Harmonia Rosales’ paintings. They are so beautiful! She reworks famous renaissance paintings to make black women the subjects, and originally started creating them so that her daughter would see the beauty in her own features and heritage.
What does creativity mean to you?
To me, creativity means finding new and imaginative ways to inspire something in others. Rosales does this beautifully, and with great skill.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Definitely food! I love all that it has to offer on a cultural/historic level, the fact that its making and consumption can become a social experience, and the fact that there are so many combinations of textures and flavours to explore. I particularly enjoy my grandmothers traditional cooking. I have many vivid memories of plates piled high with her succulent oxtail, rice, macaroni & cheese, saltfish fritters and dumplings through the years. The connection I’ve made with her in the kitchen she has taught me how to prepare some of these things means the world to me, and I really value the connections I’ve made with the people I love most in my life through food. That’s probably why so much of my work is edible.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on an installation which will be filled with giant clams. I’m not going to reveal too much about it, because I want to sort of contain and preserve the magic of it before it is exhibited at Baker Street this November. I’m very excited about it though, and hopefully all my hard work and secretiveness pays off.
What is your ultimate dream project?
I would love to own my own chocolate shop, and sell my own handmade, edible works of art. I’m constantly searching for ways to engage everyday black women with the themes and stories I share in my work, and create affordable pieces that anyone can enjoy. I’m all for the democratisation of the art world, and really want to bring work that I think is essential to the development of society outside of gallery spaces, and into the real world where it can actually impact everyday people. I’m so deeply inspired by the artist Theaster Gates, who creates brilliant architectural spaces that educate and bring people from all walks of life together. My ultimate dream is to have the same sort of success in my own community.
Who is your favourite historical female artist?
Probably Augusta Savage. Her legacy is phenomenal, and she doesn’t receive anywhere near enough recognition for her contributions to black history and her admirable set of skills. ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is one of my favourite sculptures of all time. I’m still in awe of how perfectly she was able to capture people’s likeness within her work. The figures within each piece genuinely appear to have an individual soul, and a story. Very few artists have the ability to capture something like that; to bring a raw material to life from scratch, and embed within it a palpable consciousness and a presence.
And your favourite current practicing female artist?
There are so many to choose from that I don’t think I have a single favourite. I can name a few who I really like though. Vashti Harrison is an incredible illustrator. She creates these warm, pleasant images of black women and girls that are really uplifting. Lorna Hamilton Brown is a contemporary artist who is more than worth mentioning. I really admire the way she consistently challenges institutional racism within the art world, and her motivation to provide both visibility and inspiration to black knitters through her practice. Her skillset is out of this world too. I also really like illustrator Minnie Small. A lot of people don’t know that I originally dreamt of illustrating children’s books. I recall watching a video of Minnie talking about what inspired her to become an illustrator, and honestly felt as though I was watching myself on screen. Like Minnie, I loved Roald Dahl books, and still have my collection to this day.
The way Quentin Blake brought those stories to life in those books inspired me to pursue art making and drawing seriously from a very young age.
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
I would like to say thank you for taking the time to interview me - I really appreciate this opportunity, and genuinely enjoyed sharing all the anecdotes and people that inspire/excite me with you