There is a solace that can be found within the works of Harriet Hoult. As a self-described feeling-led artist, Harriet’s imbues her works with her own sentiments and perspective, offering the viewer safe spaces in which they may relax and contemplate. The form of the pieces speaks to the artist’s time spent training to be an artist in the intricate Cornish countryside. These landscapes reference what the artist calls the “inner and outer” landscapes, which speak to the dichotomy of appearance against reality and how things may appear calm on the outside, but the opposite can be said of what is truly being felt. This mirrors the works, in that they are built up, broken down, and manipulated by the artist, whilst still maintaining a distinct sense of calm. Along with producing these oases of calm, Harriet is compelled by beauty when she creates her work, crafting an aesthetic elegance that is drawn from the subtleties of colour used.
SuperGlue: Could you please introduce yourself as an artist?
Harriet Hoult: I grew up in a very artistic family; my mum and granny were both artists, so I just used to draw a lot at home. My favourite subject was art at school and I’d wish the whole week away until the art class, feel alive for about an hour and then die again for rest of the week. So art was very much always in my heart and soul from a young age. I didn’t go to study art after school, because I was told it wasn’t an academic subject and I’m actually glad I didn’t. You hear a lot of people that go to art school and come out very traumatised and very sort of like beaten in a way, confidence beaten and I think at that stage that would have been me. So I felt like it was important to kind of go on this journey and then come round to it a bit later.
SG: That’s fascinating, but you knew always had this art sensibility in the back of your mind?
HH: I just yeah, I just sort of if someone if anyone ever said to me what if you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do? I’d always say “to be an artist, but I don’t think it’s possible”, that was always my thing; be an artist, but it’s not possible.
SG: Isn’t it so disheartening to hear that people tell you those kind of things aren’t possible at that age, when words distill in your mind. It’s interesting to have begun your journey from this, very jarring beginning.
HH: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that there’s so many cases of this. I mean, it’s not just art either, it’s just sort of general creativity – I think there’s so many extremely creative people out there that are doing things that are so not creative or aligned with who they really, truly are in their most creative sense.
Harriet Hoult, All the Spaces, 2021. Nine pieces, Acrylic & Mixed Media, 41 x 38cm each
SG: So, then you went to university and you studied something else, before getting back into your art making?
HH: I did a lot of courses; different courses and I was mentored by a few different established artists. I then went off. I packed everything into a car one day and drove down to Cornwall. I spent about 10 months there, living in a caravan in someone garden, near Land’s End, almost as far West as you can go. I just needed to get away from everything; friends and distractions I suppose, and just really focus. So, I was mentored there by this ceramicist called Sandy Brown who was amazing and then another artist called Marie Claire Hammond. Then I did a lot at Newlyn Art school. So that was the real turning point in my career.
SG: It’s interesting that you say that you, and two things really strike me from that. Firstly this influence of ceramics and sculpture and secondly the immersion in rural landscape that you prescribed yourself. There is a certain sculptural quality from your art, which has been built up from the canvas, giving a distinct texture and depth to you work. I wonder if you could kind of talk a little bit about that about the process?
HH: I think I’m a very sort of feeling-led person and I work through that way. I really hope to convey that feeling, but through the visual look of it. And I think that my attempt at doing is by creating the layers and the more sculptural elements in the pieces. Yeah, I just keep going. It’s a very intuitive, very instinctive process and I just keep going, without really thinking, until the layers get built and they lead me in a sense.
SG: I like the idea of a process of building the artwork. Your work looks like it has taken time and that it has been built over a certain amount of time, which I think is interesting given the similar feelings that the other artists have voiced about this. Alongside this, your work has many parts that seem to be balanced in a delicate interplay, from landscape and texture, to contemplation. Where does the inspiration for this come from?
HH: I call it the inner and outer landscape. So yeah, absolutely references to the outer landscape, but without sort of thinking too much. I often realize what the references are afterwards, sort of, in hindsight. It’s like I do the painting and then I look at it and then it tells me what it’s about. I can then see those reference points more clearly. Then the inner landscape is, again without really thinking too much, pouring onto the paper and then learning again, once the piece has been done.
SG: I love the notion of the inner and outer within your work. I can see this dichotomy in your pieces, in which there is a lot going on but also a serenity and calmness to them and it is contemplative, it’s almost a therapeutic thing. I’m very much drawn to them and when I look at them, I just want to spend time looking at your them.
HH: Yeah, and I think that I am compelled by beauty and I’m not about creating something dark and moody. I want to create something beautiful. I’m very fascinated by colour, but the subtleties of color. I also think that’s quite interesting, because a lot of people say to me that I have this very calm voice and way about you, but actually, inside, there’s absolute chaos going on. So I think that’s quite interesting with the paintings, there’s a lot going on, and yet they appear very calm. I sort of believe that, whether someone does photo-realistic work or completely abstract work, and you spend long enough with the artist, it becomes very clear that their work that you see is a direct reflection of them. Every time. Hands down, every time. And you may sort of think, this actually doesn’t reflect them, but the more time you spend with the artist and their art you realize it’s just, it’s just them, you know? I think it always has to be that.
SG: I completely agree. I wonder how the past year has affected your practice or how you feel about your art, how you interact with your art?
HH: Yeah, absolutely. In the first lockdown I felt very anxious about things and when I’m anxious, I’d come out of the creative flow. So, I didn’t work for a few months. So I was very deeply affected by it. I think my work used to be quite bold and bright, and I mean it was always quite delicate and sort of feminine in a way, but bolder and brighter colors. Particularly over this year, things have gone sort of softer and quieter and calmer, and I feel like that’s sort of the reaction to this kind of cocooning that we’ve all had to do. I feel like I’m creating protection for myself and perhaps others through the work. You know, creating a safe space where people can go when the world feels very unsafe.
SG: That’s an amazing thing to strive for, and actually, to be able to take solace in art is one of the simple pleasures, I think. And moreover, to be able to provide that for your audience. In fact, it seems like we return to this idea of therapy, the inner and outer self. The exhibition is in conjunction with SuperGlue, which has collaboration at its core. Being part of the Pollen Collective yourself, I wonder what you think about collaboration in general with art.
HH: I love collaboration. I feel like I’m a real individualist and I know that, and I will always be that. I love doing my thing, but then I love stepping out of it every now and again and collaborating. In doing so, I end moving between these standpoints. However, generally, where there’s more people, there’s more energy. So, I think it’s a very, very important thing.
SG: What what’s coming up next for you? What have you got? What have you got on the on the horizon? What can people be excited for?
HH: There’s been a lot going on with me moving house and moving studio twice already this year, so I feel like I’m just now sort of landing, you know, and and kind of settling. I’ve just finished a show and I have got a couple of things in the pipeline. A couple of things unconfirmed, but but we’ll see, but really, actually it’s about me starting to do the work again and I’ve purposely not got involved with lots of things. I’ve pretty much sold every piece I have. So I just need to freaking do some work!
It’s a good place to be and and not a good place because it’s a bit sort of. But yeah, I have been careful in not overstretching myself with that awareness.
SG: How do you relate to glue?
HH: How do I relate to glue? I’ve never thought about that before. I’ve never been asked that question before. Glue, well, obviously, I think sticky. I feel like it could be like there’s two sides to it. You can either be stuck, you know and or you could be. It could be quite grounding; it’s holding you safe. So, I see a kind of juxtaposition between those two things. That’s what the major springs to mind.
Keep it glued.