Interview: Gaia ozywn

The intricate, delicate and majestic works of Gaia Ozwyn command space and attention. Gaia, who works full time for the NHS, is inspired by the environment of Dartmoor, which is where she grew up. Upon the tors of this wild landscape there is a unique duality between beauty and harshness, clarity and obscurity, which is demonstrated by the quick shift in weather and conditions and the distinct feeling of being alone with nature. In her work, Gaia addresses this balance by using the abrasive materiality of concrete, which elevate out of the paintings, representing the outcroppings of rock dotted around Dartmoor, whilst maintaining a distinct calmness through the tonality and composition of the paints applied to the canvas. This combination gives the work a sublime quality, in which space for contemplation is warranted.

SuperGlue: Thank you for being part of SuperGlue21! Could you introduce yourself and your practice?

Gaia Ozwyn: I think I’ve always been interested in the arts, especially when I was in school, but I think when I got to my teenage years, I definitely veered away from art. I got distracted with the usual and then when I started university, I lived with one of my friends, who was really creative and she kind of inspired me just to pick the brush back up again. We used to sit around in our living room. We had a big living room and the four of us would converse and sort the world’s problems out. Since then, it’s evolved into something that now is almost every spare minute of my time. So yeah, it’s been journey. It’s nice. 

SG: That’s super interesting, so you have this sense of collaboration with other people who are working, drawing the creativity out of you. It is especially interesting given that SuperGlue is founded upon collaboration. I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about how you view collaboration?

GO: I think collaboration is essential, even if it’s informal. If it’s just asking your mate if that is too much blue in there, or generally what they think? I think even if you don’t realize you’re actively collaborating, you kind of always are. The same could be said with, you know social media now, you’d like to think that you’re working on your own, but I think even just scrolling through Instagram or seeing things online, there is a form of collaboration. I think there’s so much value in collaboration, you can learn something from every single person you meet, and we all bring something different to the table and have different ideas. Especially with super glue, as an example, because you get this international form of collaboration which, for most people is not possible, with COVID especially.  Prior to that, we were able to collaborate, sort of locally, but it definitely wouldn’t have been an international effort.  

Gaia Ozwyn, Face, 2020. Oil on stretched canvas, 101 x 76cm
Gaia Ozwyn, Ethereal, 2020. Oil and concrete on stretched canvas, 120 x 100cm

SG: With regards to Covid, which I guess we have to address, has it affected anything you’ve done in your artistic practice in the last year?

GO: I think it has. I think it kind of made everyone think about escapism. Some escaping to the country escaping, you know, the kind of isolation in some way. I think that’s definitely manifested more and more in my work. I was raised in Devon and I think that it’s kind of made me a bit homesick this last year. I miss the outdoors. 

SG: That’s really interesting. You say about this moving back into the countryside and looking at things, and as I look at your works, which are fairly abstract and non figurative, I do get a sense of the natural and a sense of landscape and the countryside environment; do these things inspire your works?

GO: Yeah, they definitely do. I grew up five minutes away from the beach and a few minutes drive from the Moors, where there are these big tors, like outcroppings or rocks on these hills, and they’re just beautiful. I think there’s an element of duality within them; they can be such a serene place to go to, so beautiful and calm, and when the weather is nice you can see for miles uninterrupted with no people and it’s lovely. But then, when the weather turns is just hideous. It’s beautiful, but in a completely different way. It’s isolated and you can’t see five feet in front of you, the wind is beating at you. I think that’s my work. I’d like to think it represents that.  I feel that although I’ve got elements of harsher substrates like concrete, there’s also an aspect of softness and warmth in them. 

SG: I love that dichotomy. The form of your work, which incorporates a building up of concrete and washes of your paint, really emphasize this idea of like weather coming in, it’s beautiful. Could you tell me about the process of making your works?

GO: It’s been a journey. It’s been trial and error because there really wasn’t any reference point online that I could find for artists working with concrete in the way that I wanted to. There was no decent guide to working with concrete, and so it really was a trial and error, getting buckets of different materials from B&Q and mixing them up and seeing how they worked. For some I mix up the concrete and directly pour it on into wooden blocks that I’ve make up a sort of a mould. I then carve the shape into it. For others, I pour out concrete on baking trays with baking paper and it into flat structures. Then once they are dry, I mash it up and adhere it to the canvas before creating the smooth transition from the concrete to the canvas.

SG: Amazing. The abrasion caused by the concrete, along with the muted colour palette that you use really does create a landscape similar to what you were describing earlier. Could you expand on your choice of colour, perhaps where the inspiration for that comes from?

GO: I think again, it’s probably on the Moors in the southwest. I mean, obviously in nature you’ve got vibrant colors and they’re beautiful, but I think generally, where I draw the inspiration from is on the Moors, which generally are quite muted; lots of greys and dumb, toned down colors. I am drawn to those colour ways. I will try and put in really bright colors and then I’ll just mute them down.

Gaia Ozwyn, Substate, Inorganic, & On the edge, 2020. Oil on concrete, on wooden panel, 28 x 35.5cm

SG: I think the effect that is given off is a sense of contemplation within your works too, it is almost as if they command the viewer to reflect whilst viewing the piece. In fact, the artists chosen for SuperGlue21 seem to have these attributes in their work, but I think because your work is so intricate it instructs the viewer you to look, relax and take time to contemplate.

GO: I would say that it is quite hard to say from the artist perspective, because I am so used to working on my own, on my own work, so it is really hard to be objective about it. There’s some  peacefulness about that. I think that lovely romantic idea about you know, sort of Jackson Pollock throwing and painting around and being quite reckless, I think that has its place in art. But, I think with mine it’s slower.

SG: I love this idea of slow art, about respecting the process. Given that you work within the NHS, do you see your process of making as a form of therapy and escapism?

GO: It’s definitely a form of therapy, isn’t it? I think no matter what you do, it’s a  time to sort of slow down. My work in the hospital tends to be quite structured, planned and confined to a specific set of rules, whereas I think I can take my time with my art and make my own rules as I go. It’s really relaxing, really relaxing. Working in the NHS doesn’t actually affect my practice too much though. The biggest effect it has on my work, is that I can’t paint as much as I want to. I think it goes back to that duality, in which you have a highly stressful line of work and then you have something to relax; but I think both of them go hand in hand, in balance.

Gaia Ozwyn, Labyrinthine, 2021. Print, edition of six.
Gaia, Ozwyn, Summit, 2021. Print, edition of two, 23 x 30cm

SG: What do you having coming up in 2021?

GO: I’m going to be part of the London Design Biennale at the beginning of July, which should be really fun. They usually have a selection of 300 or so artists, and there’s an international exhibition so you get people coming from lots of different countries, so it’s accessible. I’ve just got a couple of pieces in a gallery in Kent called The Drawing Rooms

SG: I think accessibility within art is essential. Art should, and can, be for everyone.

GO: Yeah, 100%. I feel like when I was slightly younger, I was a bit intimidated by art. Now, I don’t care as much, but I think it’s more about being a bit more confident. When I was in my early 20s, I felt quite intimidated going into a gallery. So yeah, I love that things are becoming more accessible now, especially with social media and the Internet. You know you can get some insight into different ways of doing things and get exposure. I believe social media is a powerful tool for the modern artist; it allows for exposure, but also can cut out the middle man of the dealer.

 

I feel like also there’s some element of more artistic freedom in general because you haven’t got to conform to anything. I think a few years ago, the way to get recognised or to have your work sold would be to go through a gallery and conform to their ideals, which I think is slippery slope in that you end up. 

 

SG: How do you relate to glue? 

GO: Glue in itself is sticks things to things and allows connection between things that may not naturally go together. So I think that that is the common thread through all of life, isn’t it? You’re constantly making connections with things, growing and coming together.

Keep it glued.

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