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Studio Visit - Divine Southgate-Smith

Studio Visit - Divine Southgate-Smith

Studio Visit - Divine Southgate-Smith

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Studio Visit

Divine Southgate-Smith

Equally influenced by new and old styles, traditional and modern techniques, Divine Southgate-Smith creates work that feels as familiar as it does otherworldly. In her recent collection of digital prints, this London-based, multidisciplinary artist translates her passion for architecture and sculpture into a two-dimensional format — but these works are nonetheless crafted with acute attention to texture that makes them practically tactile. Inspired by elements including text, the vibrant colors of her former home in Lisbon, and an eclectic playlist that moves from Miles Davis to FKA Twigs, she aspires to a body of work that pulls from the past and uses technologically advanced tools from the present, but offers viewers something that hangs timelessly in between.

 

Q.

Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist…

A.

I suppose I came to be an artist through the educational system. I was a literature student who essentially didn’t do her art homework on countless occasions, even though I loved to draw. In after school detention I was asked to sketch a still life, and as I sketched away the head of the art department (a woman who was known as the iron lady and now my very good friend) walked in and looked over at my drawing. She singled me out, and due to her reputation I was petrified — she asked me to come the next day and paint my first oil painting. And so I realized that I loved language and art. To this day I work with both text and visual arts. I think it’s what pushed me towards video and performance as well as architecture, sculpture, and installation.

Q.

What is your creative process?

A.

Either I start from research or I just start writing immediately. I write a text first and then I determine whether that text can be translated into video work, performance, sculpture, or installation (which often includes a bit of both). Due to the nature of the work, I am always researching and getting inspired by images, film, and books — I simply collect.

If I decide that I will be making a sculpture or installation, my architecture brain turns on and I start to do 2D hand drawings and 3D models on AutoDesk of potential spaces or sculptures (this is how I accidentally started making these prints). In the studio I start dreaming and exploring just how far I can push these spaces or sculptures; I imagine simple gestures happening in them or even soundscapes — a lot of things, really.

Q.

What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?

A.

Bliss and tranquility.

Q.

When do you make your best work?

A.

When I am taking a break (and therefore procrastinating) from my main artistic practice, which is more socially and politically engaged and requires a lot more rational thinking.

Divine Southgate-Smith says

“DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE WORK, I AM ALWAYS RESEARCHING AND GETTING INSPIRED BY IMAGES, FILM, AND BOOKS — I SIMPLY COLLECT.”

Divine Southgate-Smith
Divine Southgate-Smith
Divine Southgate-Smith

Q.

What draws you to this medium?

A.

I started as a printmaker, painter, and sculptor. I love these mediums very much, but due to my work becoming larger in scale and leaning toward architectural installation, I started using software to sculpt. Knowing that I have to build the sculptures afterward gave me another set of construction skills that are vital for my type of work. When I started playing with the two-dimensional aspects of it, that was the real gem! Because of the painting and printmaking, I realized that the digital aesthetic or surface was something that I wasn’t drawn to. So the monotone and powdering effect perhaps pays homage to my more traditional education. Somewhere between digital and analog, I guess.

Q.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

A.

For my print works, I draw inspiration from post-modern architecture, relief prints, and some of my favorite painting. The rest is imagination and dreaming really. Sometimes I think I just make spaces that I would like to go to — almost as if they are projections of my mind palace.

Q.

What is your relationship with social media?

A.

I’m terrible with it. I use it but I think I still have to figure out what for. Mainly I use Instagram as a visual mood board of research and my print works and the occasional sculpture can be found there as well. I like that it allows me to curate my own aesthetics and give a little insight into what I’m inspired by. Additionally, I use it to follow my favorite accounts.

Q.

What influence does living in London have on your work?

A.

I started making the prints when I moved to Lisbon in 2017. The city is so bright and the color palette really influenced my work: Pink and green, blue and red, and yellow and orange are painted over all the buildings. I just moved back to London in September, so I can’t wait to see how it influences my prints. Fingers crossed, we won’t see any grey or brown prints! But on a serious note, London is an exciting place to live, full of innovation and inspiration. I get to see so many wonderful things here that I can add to my visual research.

Divine Southgate-Smith

Q.

Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?

A.

I have to answer this question thinking of my practice as a whole: John Akomfrah, Adrian Piper, James Turell, Ricardo Bofill, Tadao Ando, Francis Kéré, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Adolphe Appia, Jamaica Kincaid, Giorgio de Chirico, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Maya Angelou. I could go on.

Q.

Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?

A.

“The space between the idea of something and its reality is always wide and deep and dark.The longer they are kept apart — idea of thing, reality of thing — the wider the width, the deeper the depth, the thicker and darker the darkness.” - Jamaica Kincaid, The Best American Essays

Q.

Describe your work in three words.

A.

Duration. Space. Voice.

Q.

What do you listen to when creating?

A.

I have very eclectic taste, so depending on my mood I would listen to Ayub Ogada, Alice Coltrane, Susumu Yokota, Ohio Players, Funkadelics, Arial Pink, Midori Takada, ARCA, Betty Davis, FKA Twigs, SOPHIE, Tame Impala, Blood Orange, Connan Mockasin, Ali Farka Touré, Devendra Banhart, Miles Davis, Fela Kuti. I essentially have a playlist for studio vibes as music is very important to me.

Q.

What makes you laugh?

A.

I laugh a lot, so almost anything.

Q.

What makes you nervous?

A.

Speaking in front of an audience.

Q.

What makes you excited about the future?

A.

The future is a very precarious place right now, but what makes me excited about it is that we are still able to express our thoughts and ideas about the world we live in through art. I certainly hope this doesn’t change.




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