Yvonne Pettitt talked with Lenore Collins about Lenore’s upcoming show at Signal Arts Centre 28th February 2022 – 13th March 2022
Lenore Collins – TRANSITION
Interview: Yvonne Pettitt and Lenore Collins
YP: Could you tell me a little about your background?
LC: I grew up in Massachusetts on the Atlantic Ocean near the old whaling town of New Bedford where the novel Moby Dick is set.
I have a Degree in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design. After school I spent a spell in San Francisco as a full-time designer. I came to Dun Laoghaire in 1998 and continued to work as a graphic designer. I began to return to paint in my free time.
YP: I’m interested in the relationship between graphic design in which you have had a very successful career and now your painting work.
LC: The principles are similar; composition especially is key.
When I started back painting again (I had really wanted to for some time). My artist friend Paula O’Riordan mentioned that I might go to Jennifer Cunningham in IADT. In a sense going to Jennifer came right to me. I began in a realistic approach and then I went to Louise Niland when colour (always my main interest) became my focus. At that time, I had no real interest about painting in an abstract way.
YP: Although you had all that background in design?
LC: Yes, looking back it’s strange.
YP: Maybe do you think that learning to paint is a bit of a process or journey whereby you want to learn how to conquer realism first before letting go to explore the properties of paint for other more emotional qualities?
LC: I think I’ve always felt since art school that I needed to be able to do the basics in order to abstract. I am a bit old school that way, because I feel if all somebody can do is abstract and they can’t draw a figure or an apple it’s just …
YP: – it could be potentially fake?
LC: – It’s just the way I was taught yes – I wanted to make sure to have full understanding of basics; that I could paint anything realistically.
I got to that point and then I took part in a collaborative show with Artnetdlr, Hinterland. It was a new departure, but I got stuck in; my partner and I had a theme. Technically we limited our palette so that we were using the same colours so that they would relate. That approach worked well and I really enjoyed it. I was moving to a more intuitive style.
Our next collaborative piece for Metamorphosis, Artnetdlr, I worked with two abstract artists, Mo Roantree and Paula O’Riordan again.
Our work was devised during lockdown over two years; I was getting more abstract and loving it. I realised that I had found where I’m happiest and where the graphic design and the fine art come together for me. This show is called Transition and it’s based on the transition of myself from a realist painter to an abstract painter. The show begins with realist pieces to start and then there are pieces that are moving towards abstraction, and the newest work is totally abstract.
YP: what is your point of departure with the realistic work in the show.
LC: I begin by taking my own photos. I’m an avid photographer. All the work is generated by me. I do a painting from that. I’m not copying someone else’s work or someone else’s inspiration. It’s all my piece.
YP: What kind of photographs you take?
LC: I was drawn to paint a lot of flowers because I find you can learn so much from them. They are an inspirational source in so many ways; they have form, good colour, shape, light and dark. They are organic. Flowers have all the factors needed for teaching.
I’ve only done a few portraits, but I enjoy them and would like to do more, some of them being pets. I like to paint landscapes too.
Moving forwards, I would like to paint larger abstract works.
YP: The Signal has plans to develop and maybe down the road giving more workshops. Is that something that might interest you?
LC: Oh yes, I always have enjoyed teaching. One of the nicest compliments I received was from a student, “I’m heading to bed just looking at the work today, as long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank you enough for the gift of your teaching. Look at what both Tammy and I are achieving and the joy and fulfilment it brings to our lives.”
As an art teacher I teach oil painting medium mostly. At the moment, my students are into realism, but I am interested in teaching some more abstract workshops. I get a lot out of teaching as it opens my mind up in that having to verbalise a process forces you to really consider what you know.
I found a way of communicating that is very effective. I have taken people who have no art training at all and they’ve gone a long way. I think it is because I teach them from a graphic design standpoint. I teach them that everything can be broken down into shapes so you don’t have to think of a thing. For example, if you are painting an eye in a portrait, you just have to look for shapes in it If you paint the shapes and you look back at what you have done, you’ll have the eye!
This approach seems to be very effective especially for new artists and new painters because they can relate to shape. Obviously, that’s a little bit deconstructed when you go with abstract painting.
YP: Is there anything that I haven’t asked and you’d like to say.
LC: I notice that I’ve had several people make comments about my abstract work versus my realistic work. What I would like is that my work is not understood but felt. For example, when you look at it, do you see a bit of light? Do you see a bit of movement? do you see a colour that really responds to you? For me abstract art is about a feeling you get when you look at it.
My motivation was different with the realistic work, because, if I did a picture of a lemon, you responded to it as a picture of a lemon. Is it good? Is it a good picture? Hopefully it is, but if I did an abstract of a lemon you might not know it, but you might feel something about it. With abstract art you have to engage your brain and not interpret something literally.
I like this difference, getting away from the skill in graphic art making. I concentrate more on mark making than on precise drawing. This is an important difference. With abstract art, you have to engage your own feelings in trying to establish what you feel about the painting.
Ask yourself what does this painting say to me? What does it not?
YP: To sum up, would you be very happy if the viewer connects emotionally to your work?
LC: A response is a response isn’t it? Positive or negative.
But it does feel really good when someone looks at it and responds to the colours or the movement.
YP: Yet sometimes you continue to engage with the visible world.
LC: Yes, I will continue with some more realistic paintings, but am more focused on my new journey into abstraction.
YP: How does it affect your realist work?
LC: I’m looser, I focus more on mark making. I’m not so interested in precise drawing, details, specifics, I’m more interested in colour and movement textures and marks. I’m ready to let go and leave things emerge.
YP: Thank you so much Lenore, I can’t wait to see your show!