I’m excited to announce my interview with the one and only Venetia Berry @venetiaberry
I love Berry’s her focus on both colour and shape in her ‘organic, female, voluptuous’ works.
After a very traditional training in Florence, Berry’s work has evolved hugely, abstracting to the colourful, figurative works we know today. There are clear influences of Helen Frankenthaler and Matisse in her pieces.
She says: “My aim is to present an ‘everywomxn’ and I want the viewer to project themselves onto my work, not vice versa. I am so aware that I have had one particular female experience, as a privileged, cis, white woman I don’t want to try and paint about other female experiences, but instead create something inclusive that the viewers can find themselves in, if that makes sense.”
Venetia, I AM A HUGE FAN OF YOU AND YOUR WORK. LET'S START WITH: how would you describe your work in 3 words?
Organic, female, voluptuous.
What do you believe is integral to the role of an artist?
I think it is really important to keep going and keep creating, no matter what. It is so much easier to flex your creative muscles when you have been practising a lot.
Was there a Eureka moment for you to become an artist Venetia?
Sort of! I did a summer course at Charles Cecil in Florence when I was 19. I was meant to be going to Bristol University to study Politics later that year, but I completely fell even more in love with art and knew it was what I wanted to pursue. There were a few students on the same course who were studying full time at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh who encouraged me to apply. I ended up getting a really last minute place and had to race up to Edinburgh and sleep on my friends floor for the first few weeks!
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Probably wishing I was an artist and spending all my spare time creating. I imagine something creative, advertising has always appealed to me.
Who or what are your greatest influences? How do you find these, and how do you think these influences come out in your work VENETIA?
My greatest influence comes from other artists work. I never fail to be inspired by Matisse or Helen Frankenthaler. I am always looking for colour combinations within other artist’s work and this can inspire a whole new painting, or even a whole exhibition! I think they come out in my work through the use of colour and shape.
I HAVE DEFINITELY NOTICED A REFERENE TO MATISSE. HOW INTERESTING. Venetia, how has your work evolved over the years?
It has changed quite a lot! I had a very classical training in Florence before I studied painting up in Edinburgh and concentrated on portraiture. So I started off fairly traditionally. However, I started to work in a more abstract way when I went to the Royal Drawing School and studied etching. Through etching I was able to really think about what I wanted to be making work based on, which I hadn’t really thought that much about before. Since then my work has become a lot more abstract, however, always based around the female form and societies pressures on womxn in particular.
Venetia, I've always wondered: who are the female figures in your work? What are they telling us?
It is really important in my work to not be portraying a particular or individual womxn. My aim is to present an ‘everywomxn’ and I want the viewer to project themselves onto my work, not vice versa. I am so aware that I have had one particular female experience, as a privileged, cis, white woman I don’t want to try and paint about other female experiences, but instead create something inclusive that the viewers can find themselves in, if that makes sense. I want this essence of what it is to be a womxn to be conveyed within my work. In terms of what they are telling us, I have always aimed for my work to open up the conversation on mental health and the pressure that womxn feel from society, especially when it comes to their bodies. However, I also want to stress how little our bodies actually matter, we are all so much more than just our bodies.
That's incerible. And, what would you change about the art world today if you could?
The art world is overwhelmingly white and privileged. I fully acknowledge that I am a part of this problem. I think the system needs to change and the arts as a career needs to be pushed within schools around the country and more grants need to be introduced. I am sure there are millions of incredibly talented artists who have been pushed to get a ‘proper job’ instead of pursuing their passion.
Could you select a piece of your work and tell us a bit about it?
Sure. Here is a piece I wrote about ‘Keres’ for my current online show ‘Virago’ with Partnership Editions. Each work was named after a Greek Goddess, and I wrote a little blurb about each one, and how they relate to life today.
The Divine Feminine is seen as an energy that has lived with us since ancient times. It is not an energy solely within womxn, but within all genders. It represents the connection to the part of our consciousness responsible for intuition, nurture, creation and empathy. The ‘gut feeling’ is connected to this Divine Feminine energy. This energy or essence is integral to my work and something I always strive to convey within the colours and shapes I am drawn to. A feeling or energy is almost impossible to put your finger on, but I hope within my work this essence of femininity comes across.
What is your studio like? What are your artist essentials, what do you listen to etc…?
It’s like a little slice of my brain! I’ve got a lovely big, green velvet sofa that I spend too much time sitting on. The walls are covered in my inspirations and also my own paintings. I have a few plants too, lots of art books, a printing press. I usually listen to Radio 4 in the morning as I have a coffee and look at my emails. I love listening to podcasts and I get through lots of books on audible too, or spotify! But sometimes only silence will do! I always light a candle in the afternoon too.
I love it! and, If you were to describe yourself as a colour, what colour would that be and why?
Ooh that is incredibly tough. I’m loving a lilac/cornflower blue colour at the moment, it seems to be coming up everywhere and I can’t stop using it within my work. Not sure what that says about me though!
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time:
a) What would the meal be?
b) Who would it be with?
Oysters and lots of champagne with Lee Krasner. And, why not?! I love her work and every interview I have seen with her she is hysterical. So I think we would have a great time.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions, shows or initiatives?
I currently have an online show called ‘Virago’ with Partnership Editions on their website. I am hoping to have a real life exhibition next year…but we will see, fingers crossed!
Who is your favourite historical female artist?
So tricky! Maybe Helen Frankenthaler. She never fails to inspire me with her beautiful use of colour and washes, as well as her scale – some of her works are huge!
Who are all your favourite practicing female artists and their instagram handles?
This is by no means all of them, but here is a few!