FROM VAGUE CHILDHOOD MEMORIES of living in a women’s refuge, to more recent hurdles – including her home burning down – artist Marie-Louise has an amazingly positive outlook on life.
She shares a cosy little studio with one other artist/editor and is close to working as a full-time artist, including her work as a part-time freelance festival/music events set designer and illustrator. The building which houses their studio, located in East London, is filled with studios occupied by different artists, both from England and abroad.
Marie-Louise’s works were on display when I visited and the entire space neat and ordered. This was due to a recent open studios held at the site. The room is filled with Marie-Louise’s artwork and also antique furniture, old photographs and even a suitcase filled with hair collected from various hairdressers around London!
Marie-Louise tells me a little of her work. “The ongoing hair and ink works are part of my experimentation with free-flowing thoughts, desires and emotions... Born out of frustration at the restrictive and overly thoughtful processes I have previously used. Although there is a serious investigation into the inner conflict of female sexuality, I'm happy to encourage the occasional smile and chuckle from the viewer.”
These works have been quite successful for Marie-Louise. She was selected to exhibit the works in Untitled BCN Gallery, Barcelona. Which then led to Espai(b) Gallery, Barcelona,purchasing some for their private collection. Four months later the curator was doing a show for International Women’s Day, 2012, and asked Marie-Louise to contribute.
“The Women’s Aid ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ project project is one that is close to my heart and has inspired a lot of my current practice. I found it refreshing to create a work that was inspired by 'a beautiful moment' as opposed to the more sinister and unsettling atmosphere of previous works.”
Marie-Louise was asked to create the work along side other artists and designers, including Rob Ryan and Fred Butler. All works were on display in Central London. Marie-Louise also had her work published in Creative Review.
This current and most recent flow of work, freelance included, came about from Marie-Louise pushing herself and her creations and ‘getting out there’ – from novelty stands at festivals, answering call outs from galleries and volunteer work for charities.
Her piece Ghetto Princess, a life-size tissue paper and wire dress was born, and is still growing, out of a miserable day in London, 2011. For whatever reason, those few days took her right back to the feelings of her childhood. At about the age of six or seven Marie-Louise remembers spending time in a women’s refuge with her Mum. “It felt like we were there for a long time, but I couldn’t actually say if it was three months or a year.”
She started writing down memories, thoughts and emotions from that period in her life. “I feel I have reached a stage whereby there is now no separation between myself and the artwork.” These memories are to be included in the corset of the dress.
Her past is influential in her work. “Initially Ghetto Prince wasn’t directly about domestic abuse or refuges or that kind of thing. It was about coming from a poor or disadvantaged background. And then finding myself in a completely opposite world; an art world, elitist, completely privileged.”
Though her mother and sister are completely different to Maire-Louise in respect to their interests in art, she is overwhelmed by their support and interest in her pursuits.
A few years after leavinghigh school,Marie-Louise found herself hating her life and her dead-end government admin job.“It was really dull, it wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t a happy person. Then I saw an ad for work on a campsite for a kids campin the South of France, it was doing random things and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to travel.”
The kid’s camp led to more travel andmeetings with interesting and inspiring people with refreshing outlooks on life. When she arrived back in London, 25 years-of-age, Marie-Louise decided to apply to study fine arts as a mature student.
“Exhibitions and galleries felt so aliencompared to the world I grew up in.” She remembers “not even considering university as an option growing up, let alone fine-art”.
It’s clearly been a great format for self-expression and exploration of her childhood. You would never guess meeting Marie-Louise that she could ever have been unhappy, as her bubbly personality and positive attitude seem hard to crack.
Once she finished her degree, Marie-Louise often worked from her home. Bad news came when she received a call from her housemateon route home.He informed Marie-Louise, her room, in addition to the rest of the house was up in flames. Most of her possessions were destroyed. There were a few salvageable items, but once again Marie-Louise found herself homeless. However, she was completely overwhelmed with the support and generosity of her friends and family. With her Step-Grandfatherinitially putting her up in a hotel, and friends offering rooms and couches until she was able to get settled again. This, in addition to her ever-expanding portfolio of work, enabled Marie-Louise to make the decision to rent her current studio.
Now, after just completing another set design for the Farm Festival, she is exhibiting in the Shoreditch Fringe Festival. And although Marie-Louise seems to be doing a good job at looking for methods to get her work out there, she still comments on the complexities in getting funding. “I’m finding it quite difficult to do the cross over and be a proposal writer and an artist. I am not so used to the business side of things.”
With the constant stress that she will not be able to continue funding her career, Marie-Louise has to frequently remind herself to not “look too far into the future, just the next few months”.
You can see more of Marie-Louise’s work here