Hailing from Kent, Foundation’s Lizzie Langton showcased her masterfully cunning micro-painting of a pencil shaving in the 2014 Foundation exhibit. Her minimal realist approach to her final piece puzzled the guests at this year’s Foundation Show, leaving many wondering if the curators had simply forgot to clean after the exhibit accordingly. Her piece, entitled ‘Elevating the Unimportant,’ featured discarded items in an artist’s practice whilst holding them in a new light. Having gained a place on BA Fine Art at Chelsea next year, we catch up with the painter to understand more about her deceptive paintings and how she commands her distinct craft.
The composition of your pieces can be quite deceptive, are there any technical challenges that arise from trying to create hyperrealistic works?
My work became quite sculptural to begin with, casting items in plaster and embedding into resin. A lot of thought went into my tiny painting. I had created pencil versions and colour pencil versions but they weren’t giving me the deep colours of the wood so I chose to use oil paint as a mode of elevating the items status and creating a more realistic finish. Creating the shape of the paper was also a challenge as I couldn’t cut the spiral of a real sharpening so it’s actually a warped coil when flattened. Also, working in a busy studio, it was a challenge to stop my work getting thrown away by mistake.
Did people react the way you expected to your piece?
It was actually very interesting for me to stand back and watch people as the approached my piece. People seemed to be divided, one group tutting and walking off seemingly thinking I’d pinned a sharpening to the wall, others would stop and lean in to realise it’s a painting and feel quite pleased with themselves that they weren’t fooled. I think if I had had a sign up stating the materials people would have been more willing to accept it as a painting, but I enjoyed the reactions as I feel that they are just as important as the work itself.
What influences do you draw from in your work?
My initial source of inspiration was from Vija Celmins meticulous approach to realism and in particular her series ‘To Fix the Image in Memory’ in which she made bronze casts of rocks and painted them to look identical as the original. I really liked how this affected me as the audience, looking closer than I ever would have and questioning which is more valuable: the original or the bronze copy. Another artist was Susan Collis, who elevates unimportant items by recreating them in precious materials. I found her inlayed mother of pearl coffee stains really interesting and how through the labour of her work I began to really appreciate such a familiar shape and think it beautiful. I was also studying Realist and trompe l’oeil paintings and how this could be enhanced by a sculptural response.
You were originally a Diagnostic Foundation student. How did you end up studying on the Fine Art: Painting Pathway?
When I was a Diagnostic student, I was expecting to go on to study Knitwear. I went in with an open mind though and decided during rotation that I felt most comfortable in the Painting class. I am glad that I’ve ended up in Fine Art as I have found my peers and tutors inspiring and am very proud of what I have achieved in Foundation. If you would have asked me a year ago what I would put in the final exhibition I certainly wouldn’t have said a pencil sharpening.
Any words of advice for the Foundation Class of 2015?
Absorb everything, don’t get discouraged by dead ends and enjoy this time to experiment.