'LIFE IS NOT A REHEARSAL' LAURENCE CAUSSE PARSLEY
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
I met Laurence in her studio in Make Space studios one Saturday morning. We spoke about her incredible journey and how her art has been shaped by her everyday reality.
Can you please tell me a little bit about your self?
As you can hear I am French. I first came to London to do an MA in Political Science (nothing to do with art), where I met my husband, who is British. Then we moved to Paris, where I started working. I worked in a consultancy and marketing, again nothing to do with art. After a while we came back to London, I had children and I kept working.
It is difficult to say it without making it sound naff, but my dad was an architect, so was his brother, my grandfather was an engineer, but he painted a lot. As a child, I spent all my time drawing and painting. I was very much a creative child. I was always taking additional classes. I did every possible art class, but I was still working, so art was a side road for me. (Image on the left: Laurence's sketches from a life drawing class)
When we moved to Asia I didn’t have to work anymore and kids were at school. So I had a lot of free time and I started painting again and my husband said, that I would start selling my painting, instead of giving them away.
We were in India for 3 years and it was amazing. There is so much art in India and I didn’t know anything about it. I was discovering the art of a new continent; it was very fascinating.
I became part of an organization, where I was in charge of organizing 12 meetings per year about art. We were going all around Mumbai trying to find places, where we could take all women taking part in the event. (It was an all women organization).
When in India I read this quote (I wish I could remember who said it) – “Your life is not a rehearsal”. It really struck me. So I thought I have to try because if I don’t I will always regret it. So I went to a gallery in Mumbai, I met a lady in charge and I said – “Do you have two or three days between exhibitions? I think I have enough body of work to exhibit. So she gave me 3 days and that was my first solo exhibition. The exhibition was a great success. It was a very good start.
But then we went to Taiwan. It was yet another discovery of a new continent and Chinese art, as I knew nothing about it.
We then spent 6 years in Bangkok. That gave me enough time to take part in group exhibition, been invited by galleries and meet Thai artists.
Then we arrived back to London. Where I didn’t know anyone, had no contacts, no studio - so I had to start all over again.
I am lucky, even though I keep my activity separate from the family budget, I’m lucky, I don’t have to pay bills and I greatly appreciate that.
It is a constant struggle for a lot of artists, isn’t it!
Yes - as an artist you always try to start things, but it is like fireworks. It dies so quickly, but as you keep trying, things start to happen.
Things can take a very long time before you see the result. The thing is - you need to keep on working as if it is going to happen, because no one wants to hear a story of a soured artist, it is very boring.
But you have to stay realistic and understand that it might never happen.
So you need to know why you are doing it. I personally know why I am doing it. I have worked in different industries, before and it was, as if I was never a part of it. I was there, but I wasn’t breathing. When I started painting, I knew I found my place. It is the only thing that keeps me alive. (Image above: Laurence in her studio working on her latest project)
When you are not rich and famous, working space is a big issue in a very concrete way.
What series of paintings did you exhibit for your first solo exhibition?
It was India in 2003. It was all about me in India, how I saw India. I painted holy cows, buildings, everything that surrounded me.
So your surroundings were your main inspiration?
Yes. And I realized not long ago, where ever I am, that’s what I am painting.
After India we went to China, so I started painting ‘the fat ladies’ from Tang Dynasty. I found the statue so beautiful, that I started to paint them.
When I came back to London, it took me about two years to digest London. My current paintings are not directly London, but they are inspired by everything around. The way town is completely layers, the way things are broken and put back together and the way things are fractured. It is a diary of my everyday life in London. But there is a little gap between the moment I experience something and the moment I start painting. I need to process it first.
Can you tell me more about the process of starting a new canvas?
My main medium is acrylic. I’m trying to move to oil, because I was working with acrylics for such a long time. It dries really quickly, so it has got an element of spontaneity to it, that you don’t have with oil (at least I haven’t found this way of working with oil). I would love to work with oil, because colours are so much deeper.
I always start, by working with big surfaces. Without drawing at all. It is more of organizing the energy with block colours, it is really abstract, as it is raw energy from outside, that I want to translate on to the canvas. I do it with textures or colours, and then on top of that, I start to introduce some details, some lines and composition. (Image on the left: Raw colour blocks on a timber crate, waiting to become an art piece)
You use a lot of colour in your work. I absolutely love it!
Yes, I do. You know, I see some work I love, in black and white, and I want to do it as well, but I can’t! I just can’t!
It is all about colours, and the way you put them together. It is very specific for you and it only makes sense to you and not anyone else.
Then you think, I have done it and it is so abstract. Sometimes you think you are working out of nowhere and it doesn’t look like anything, but then why some people are going to like it? It reaches something in them … when you paint you don’t think it is going to reach anybody. Then, you realize, it’s not that individual because it is going to spark an interest in someone, who will be touched by your work. That means that whatever was triggered in them by your work and whatever you did is the same ‘code’, that will allow another person to relate to your work. There is a connection on some other level that we all share. (Image above: fragment of a table top. Laurence's latest project)
Do you ever work on several pieces at the same time?
Yes, I always work on several paintings in one go. First, it takes time for work to dry, but also you need to step back from a piece in order to see it better.
What is your typical day in studio?
I normally go to yoga really early in the morning, then I come home to do everything I have to do and I arrive in the studio around 11am, I leave just before or after the rush hour.
The beauty of having a studio is, that you meet so many artists. Sometimes people say, “Why don’t you work from home?” There so many things you can do with other artists. For example, you think you finished your piece, so you go and knock on the door of a studio next door and you have a little crit session. They don’t try and tell you, if they like it or not (it doesn’t matter) they are trying to help you to produce a better version of what you are working on. And it is really helpful! (Image on the left: Sofa in the studio is the only 'paint free area')
You need to have enough work to show galleries, but work that you have completed needs space, but then you need space to keep on working. Management on the space is a permanent challenge.
Did you have a studio in Asia?
No, I didn’t, I worked from home. Homes over there are different. They are so much bigger and you always have a back room where you can paint. And it is always warm, so it was an open space. It was really nice.
I really enjoyed hosting workshops for 6 years in Bangkok. Unfortunately, I never found courage or strength to start workshops here. It is so complicated!
However, I am thinking about starting small workshops from my studio. When people start painting and they enjoy it, it is such a great pleasure.
Is there any special place in London where you go to, to find an inspiration?
Building sites. I take a bus and sit on an upper deck. I love to see facades, but nothing behind them. It is like a theatre set – very beautiful.
This inspires me a lot; I take so many pictures of building fragments and cranes. This is no specific place that inspires, but rather an over experience of building sites in the city.
It doesn’t have to beautiful to be interesting. I find beauty in things, which are a bit weird.
(Image above: Collection of urban landscapes in Laurence's studio)