Featuring Amanda Collis of Mossmottle
Tell us a bit about yourself:
When did you know that art was your thing?
I think I’ve always known that art is really the only thing I’m really any good at, or can do best. It’s really the only thing I feel real self belief about. although it wasn’t something that was part of my family background, I was always drawing and writing when I was younger; later I realized that I was pretty useless at plot, so the writing fell by the wayside! I gravitated towards painting as a way of exploring mood and atmosphere. Like Edward Gorey, though, my art training was negligible. It took until my mid thirties for me to start coming up with work of a good standard on a regular basis. I had to make a conscious commitment to painting, both in the sense of clearing away trivial stuff and directing your will unerringly towards it, or surrendering to it, and also in the practical sense of setting aside a room for a studio, spending any available money on art materials and equipment and finding and developing a place to show it online (mainly my etsy shop; I don’t drive, live in a provincial, pretty rural area and have a chronic pain condition so it just suits me better to focus on online selling).
Oil. Oil painting is completely fascinating to me. It’s intensely sensual and magical. It’s a complex alchemic medium with a richness and depth and warmth and unique way of incorporating time. This gives is a living quality that you feel and smell and see when you’re immersed in painting. It is very sensitive as a medium and can be modulated in so many ways. The depth is partly to do with a connection with art history through it.
I think it’s probably two separate stages; the initial “being beckoned to the studio” where you start feeling that you want to make something specific, even though you don’t know yet what it will be precisely. And there’s the amazing moment that can happen – if the work is any good – when it almost sort of “clicks” into place, or becomes fully present, and you know you’ve caught something. You can be really exhausted or at your wit’s end when that happens, although really I think my best stuff is done quite lightly and spontaneously, just, done at the right time. So maybe it’s the hunting side of it that appeals to me more than, say, the painstaking, slower agricultural side. Obviously later you look and think, hmm did I really capture something? No, probably not; must try to be readier next time.
What inspires you to create?
Speaking generally, it is this deep need, that you can’t really explain, it’s a physical as well as a mental thing (although I don’t make a division between the mind/body) and you feel zombielike and wretched if you haven’t painted for a while. I’ve just moved house and haven’t been able to paint for some weeks so that’s where I am right now! Also my fibromyalgia symptoms only seem to fade when I’m painting and it’s going very well. It’s a timeless, ego-less feeling, of complete immersion and through that, connection with everything, you feel where you’re meant to be and doing what you should be doing.
In terms of an individual work, it could be an experience of nature – I mean standing in a landscape, and the light is a certain way or a fleeting mood or emotion floods you, or a certain passage in a piece of music, or a scene in a film. Or it could be a painting, or more often a detail from a painting…it could be an idea from a book or a conversation, even a haunting perfume! They can all be leads.
I like the possibilities – of creating something strange-yet-familiar. I think a lot of my paintings are a response to some other cultural artifact, and I only realize this afterwards; and sometimes they wear their influences on their sleeves very consciously, but occasionally something a bit more elusive gets in (usually by accident) and those are the best, or at least the most intriguing to me. Abstract art theory can seem rather dry and academic to non-practitioners, but to me painting gives you essentially a complete freedom to explore. I love for instance exploring the boundaries between representation and gestural expression.
I tend to paint in relatively short bursts these days, so there is this sort of prelude of trying to track down this sense of something – I think it’s probably quite similar to writing a poem or creating a song. It’s hovering there and you can’t force it down you have to wait and listen, I’m saying “listen” because I seem to be quite sound-oriented and often use music as a way into painting. I’ve always found films very inspiring too as you get this blend of sound, image and movement creating a very strong experience, a unique feeling and the way they work together can be so powerful. A key scene for me is in Antonioni’s “Blow Up”, the one in which the protagonist first enters the park. He’s a photographer, drawn in by chance into exploring this quiet, open yet enclosed, lonely place, and you just see the wind in the trees and the grass and it’s just very mysterious and beautiful somehow. It’s replete with possibilities. I love the idea of making a painting with that kind of inherent mystery.
What’s the most rewarding thing about sharing your art with the world?
I love that someone who buys a painting wants to have it as a part of their life, in their home. That is just so moving to me. And even if it eventually goes elsewhere, it has this life of its own, and that’s such a great story. I love the idea that after I’m gone, there might be a few of these little fragments left, wandering around the planet, having curious adventures. Sooner of later returning into a deeper mulch, of course! But that’s fine too – as well as inevitable!
Thank you so much Amanda, I love your work!