Art Attack interview Maddie Rose Hills
Out of the wilderness: Maddie Rose Hills returns from iceland for london show
Maddie Rose Hills paints visceral large scale canvases driven by an interest in play and experimentation. A mass of texture and colour, Hills paints using a physical and intuitive process to cut free from conscious actions. She has developed an acute interest in looking towards the detail of what she encounters, specifically within vast natural landscapes – reflected by the small details within her work.
Art Attack: You have recently finished a residency in Iceland, tell us about this experience. How did that particular environment inspire you as an artist?
Maddie Rose Hills: Last summer, I was very excited to be accepted onto an artist residency in Iceland. The residency lasted two weeks and took part in the Westfjords where the landscape is essentially mountains and deep valleys leading down to fjords. There are no trees and the ground is covered in tough grass and flowers, as well as huge rocks covered in lichen and lava moss. The landscapes look baron and are inhospitable. The lack of visible wildlife as we know it makes it seem otherworldly. There are no reptiles or amphibians and the only land mammal native to Iceland is the Arctic Fox. We also didn’t see sign of another person the whole time we were there.
The programme brought together 10 artists working in different areas of the arts, there was a writer, photographer, filmmaker, sculptor, poet – I think there was supposed to be a dancer but they had to pull out last minute. But, the idea was that no matter what your practice was, your principal inspiration was natural landscapes and the wilderness. We walked for two weeks through these amazing landscapes carrying everything we needed for the whole trip. Due to the nature of the residency most of us couldn’t practice our art while we were there, it was purely inspiration & idea sharing. Interestingly, this allowed me to realise that I don’t paint from what’s in front of me but from a memory. The whole trip for me was gathering memories to go back and paint from after the residency was over. It was a trip in order to really focus on looking and noticing. What you then get when you make art is a response to the place – you are capturing an essence of something as opposed to trying to copy it. This has stuck with me and is now how I always work.
Art Attack: You often paint outside, does nature inspire how you practice your work?
Maddie Rose Hills: I absolutely love painting outside! I don’t get to do it often because I live in London, but my family home is in the countryside and I always jump at the chance to go home for a few days for some detox and outdoor painting. It’s the best because the light is amazing, the air is great, and I can use as many smelly paints as I like. It’s also amazing for weird reasons like when it’s really hot the paint dries so fast that it starts to form such amazing crackles that you just don’t get when painting inside.
Art Attack: Your process seems very free, when you start on a new work do you have a clear idea of where you will finish?
Maddie Rose Hills: I always have a slight idea in my head of the general colours that I want to use. This usually comes from something I’ve seen when outside on a walk, but these colours are just in my head. I never photograph anything for use. Then I like to pop down to an art shop or a DIY shop and just go a little bit mad in there and probably spend a bit too much money for an artist’s budget. But, I like to get a load of materials that tie in with what mood I’m feeling in and from the loose image I have in my mind. This is probably some really good quality coloured paints, always a huge tub of white emulsion, and after that it’s just a free for all. I can spend hours in there looking at every single product. I have a few go to things I always like to get like certain inks etc., but mainly I’m trying to find new things that I’ve never used before. This inclusion of new materials means I’m always excited to start a painting because there’s this big element of experimentation as I don’t have a clue what the material will react with etc. Pretty much as soon as I start painting, the work begins to inform itself and I just go with the flow.
Art Attack: What is next?
Maddie Rose Hills: My plan is to continue painting as much as possible. I’d like to have a few days to spend a bit of time visiting exhibitions and chilling in my local library. You get very wrapped up in making when you’re finishing a collection so whenever I finish a group of paintings I like to go back to the books and read some artists biographies or try and learn about some artists I don’t know about (public libraries are great for this kind of thing). The collection that I am exhibiting with Loughran Gallery is my favourite yet, so I feel motivated to get back to it and keep progressing.