In conversation with… Karen Picton


How would you describe your creative practice?

I would say that everything begins with the landscape, or more accurately, the land, the great diversity of land in Britain. For the last five years I’ve been painting with the mud that I find in different areas of the country, I think it’s the most honest way to explore the essential nature of the land. I begin by making work that is about the land, it’s colours, it’s geology and it’s history but then I use the mud from various places to make more abstract works, paintings of my interior landscape, my mind in the land. I think the outside landscape and the one in my mind are inseparable so my practice is really about both. I’ve always been really interested in how ideas and materials work together, so my process and practice are always connected. Using mud is part of understanding a material and how it works but I also use raw pigments to make up historic paints like egg tempera or experiment with new and contemporary materials. There is always something to learn so maybe my creative practice is about a process of finding out.

Mud II - Karen Picton

Mud II – Karen Picton

What are you working on at the moment?

I went to the Isle of Mull during the Summer and collected some really interesting mud as well as some tiny coloured stones from Iona, so I’m working with these materials at the moment. The landscape of Mull made me think about geological strata, the layers inside the hills and cliffs of the island. I’m making work about the character of this land and am using the idea of the layers inside to make some more personal and abstract work.

What is the most asked question about your work and your answer?

How on earth can you paint with mud? I usually say ‘it’s quite easy’ and then go on about the amazing colours from the different places I’ve been.

From mud to mind - Karen Picton

From mud to mind Karen Picton

Who or What inspires you?

Apart from the land itself, I love the work of Michael Porter and Hughie O’Donoghue. Both artists in their different ways are experimental with their materials and make work that is truly mesmerising.

Hidden earth - Karen Picton

Hidden earth – Karen Picton

What are the benefits and/or pitfalls of working in a group studio space?

I really can’t think of any pitfalls but the benefits are huge. As a group we exchange ideas, support each other and talk through issues that we each have with our work. We are all keen to push our practices professionally and being part of a group makes this a very active and positive goal. Maybe sometimes we chat too long over coffee but that’s not really a pitfall is it.

Salt marsh - Karen Picton

Salt marsh – Karen Picton

What do you hope to gain from showing at Art Fair East?

Art Fair East is going to be a great opportunity to hopefully sell some work but I see it more as a chance to show my practice to a wider audience and hopefully get the attention of a gallery. I think we will gain a lot from using this opportunity to publicise ourselves and I’m looking forward to meeting people at the fair or maybe in the pub afterwards!

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