Q&A with Lisa Denyer

By: Lucy Harvey

Lisa Denyer Painting Installation

Lisa Denyer, installation view

As we enter the final week of the Bankley Open Call 2013, we ask shortlisted artist and curator Lisa Denyer about abstraction, the materiality of painting, and her inspirations. Catch her two selected pieces alongside the other shortlisted and prize winning artists this week at Bankley, open Thursday 24th and Friday 25th, 12-4pm, and at our wrap party Saturday 26th, 6-9pm.


Lucy Harvey: Lisa, you state that your initial fascination as an artist with landscape, escapism and Romanticism are still apparent in your current practice, but now in abstract representations. I wondered if you could elaborate on the transformative process of abstraction? How has this process has brought you closer to expressing the sublime than your initial work could?

Lisa Denyer: In my experience, working with a non-representational vocabulary has enabled an increasingly spontaneous, intuitive and meditative process. Abstraction has allowed a focus on the minimal, emphasizing elements that could be compared to small sections of a composition in my previous landscape work.

This idea of closely exploring form through a complete stripping down to elemental components and incidental details feeds into concepts of microcosm and macrocosm. I feel that this expression of the sublime is perhaps more meaningful than my earlier landscape images.


LH: The two works on show in the Bankley Open juxtapose traditional flat, wall mounted painting against a sculptural piece which brings together paint and stone. Could you tell us more about this interplay of materials and how the three dimensional influences your painting?

LD: My interest in working with stone began with an exploration of various surface textures including hard board and plywood, and how they effected the materiality of paint. Rock and mineral formations have been informing my practice for some time, so the next step seemed to be to work directly onto stone.

The found stones in my most recent series have been quarried and used primarily for building. They became weathered and worn down over time in the area where I found them, and I was drawn to them because of their resemblance to natural rock. I liked the idea of these objects gradually returning to nature and I chose to emphasize this transition by using techniques I had been developing in my paintings. I altered the surface of the stones, while being sensitive to the intricate patterns and details that had occurred naturally.

The area where I found the stones is soon to be demolished to make way for new buildings, adding another layer to these sculptures. Elevating and drawing attention to them felt like an act of preservation, as if salvaging and renewing them.

Physically, painting on stone is very different to painting on plywood. The texture is quite strange to work with and the paint behaves very differently on these surfaces, for example it cracks much more easily. Gravity has to be counteracted, which means moving the piece around a lot as I’m working on it. I think this has made my painting process more reactive.


LH: It’s clear how strong an influence geology and nature play in your work but I wondered if you would share where, and how, you gathered this inspiration?

LD: Much of my inspiration comes from natural form – gem stones and geodes, microscopic images of crystalline structures, mineral strata, landscapes and firmament.

I have been influenced by places I have visited, such as the Lake District, Usk Valley in Wales, the French Alps, Brittany and more recently Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) in Oman. I have made several sets of paintings based around these places, through both photographic documentation and painting on site. I also take a lot of inspiration from the artists I have worked with on exhibitions I have recently curated.


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