I first "discovered" Seren's work when we both used a not as well known online platform for promoting artists and their work. I identified with and felt connected to her work right away. That wonderful blend of sculpture yet also painting, whimsical, yet sometimes dark and mysterious, abstract yet also realistic at the same time. Then I had the pleasure of getting to meet her when we were both curated into one of those "very Brooklyn" art shows in what was essentially someone's apartment. I have been so proud to see her work really take off since, it's well deserved and I hope you find as much pleasure in her work and process as I do, enjoy!
One of the first things I imagine people typically ask you is about your process, can you give us a quick description and tell us how you first discovered working this way? Was there a learning curve, or did you love this technique immediately? Can you tell us a little about that first time using the pastry bag - be that on an actual pastry or on a canvas?
For a long time I was an encaustic artist because I liked the fleshy quality of the material and I used it in a very sculptural way, building up many many layers and then reheating and carving deep gouges back in. At a certain point I became a partner at Guerra Paint and got introduced to Ultralight which is an acrylic mixed with hollow micro glass balloons. This material looks like marshmallow fluff and when thickened feels like frosting. When I initially started using the material I was using it monochromatically. I was thickening it, then stretching and pulling it like taffy, building up a network of lines and making images of what might read as sinewy biological material. As my daughter started to grow I was exposed to birthday cake decorating as well as re-entry into fairytales and just a more magical kind of realm. I think this had some influence on the work. I remember thinking boy this really feels like frosting and what if I used the pastry bag with the paint? I started giggling the first time I tried it because it was just a lot of fun.
Your work has a bit of a "mad scientist" effect that I love, these organic hybrids created where the viewer can discover this new "organism" so to speak, did you ever study science? What was it about botany and biology that drew you to those resources for inspiration?
The use of the Ultralight with the pastry bag changed my imagery. I had always been interested in really visceral evocations, with more of a flesh and blood or black like deep space kind of palette. I was trying to literally and metaphorically get under the surface or skin of things. When I began to use the pastry bag everything changed and became more playful and the color and mark making became more wild and exotic, more suggestive of plant life and sea creatures. My interest in science was always present with a fascination and inspiration from microscopic and macroscopic structures that show repetitions of patterns such as branching and spirals. Branching networks between the body and plant life can appear indiscernible. My interest in roses comes from the spiraling form imitating that of the movement of galaxies. It is endlessly fascinating to me that we are a part and parcel of this dense fabric of particles that is in constant motion even when seemingly still.
How do you typically approach a new piece, do you do a lot of research of images before creating a new piece? Or do you begin intuitively? Once you begin, do you typically finish a work all at once or does it develop over days, weeks, months?
I pretty much always begin intuitively, but I have had a few moments getting lost on Pinterest looking at diatoms, neurons, viruses, space imagery, insect patterning and nudibranchs (outrageous tropical sea slugs). As far as the duration of the process, I think that varies. Very often I have 3-5 paintings going at once but will occasionally hone in on one and work until it is done. If I am working on a large painting I typically just focus on that until it is done, approximately a month.
With this particular process, if you decide that you don't like a mark, or form, how difficult is it to "correct" that? Or is that a part of your process at all?
My process is at times so fast and loose that big globs of paint will just drop where I did not want them to go, but because I don’t really have pre-conceived ideas about how the painting will look I just turn lemons into lemonade and make a new interesting form or add more layers to embed the glob. Mistakes become part of the fabric. You have to feel free to make mistakes so that you will make new discoveries.
Some of your work has these deep shiny reflective "pools" that allow the eye to both rest from the intense surfaces of the paint, but also add a element of "unknown" to the work, where we can investigate in a different way than we do when examine the paint surfaces, can you describe a little about the meaning and intent of those reflective moments in the work?
I think the “unknown” you mentioned is exactly it. Those pools have always been like a quiet reflective place that makes me think of black holes or just infinity where nothing is understood and anything is possible. I find a lot of comfort in the mystery of the unknown, it’s where I prefer to reside in my mind. It’s an escape from the day to day mundane and frenetic details.
In some of your most recent work you've allowed the surface or background of the painting to be seen and become a part of the story so to speak versus being hidden deep below your many layers and they seem to be diving into a new series for you, was there a particular inspiration or intent there? Is this a direction you plan to continue to explore?
I think perhaps this may be a new direction but I can’t be sure at this time. There is more of a dialogue between images here and I think a larger surface lends itself to this possibility for me. It was a little more challenging to decide what each next move should be and how images should relate when you are dealing with less overall buildup. I like the density of the overly built up surface but I’m also a big fan of variety and changing up my process.
What is the best/funniest/most memorable response you've ever gotten to your work?
Most recently a friend of mine emailed me after seeing my solo show at Anthony Philip and he was kind enough to write: “You seem to have a drive to envelop people with a richness and density of beauty. The effect is to make one forget about one’s petty self for a while and be enchanted by another view of things..”
Do you have any favorite female artists?
Lots, but my favorites are Lee Bontecou, Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois and Agnes Martin
Do you have any upcoming events that you'd like to share?
Currently I have a solo show "Chlorophelia" at Anthony Philip Fine Art ending May 7th and work in the group show, "Opulent Landscapes" at DeBuck Gallery in Chelsea through May 26th. I have also been invited to be in an extension of the "Opulent Landscapes" show with DeBuck Gallery which will open in their Saint Paul de Vence location in France on June 24th.
I will also be part of an artist talk on April 25th with Trans-cen-der at Temporary Space Gallery. https://www.facebook.com/events/647910472084063
If you'd like to know more about Seren's work, please visit her website here: http://serenmorey.com/