Christabel MacGreevy: Multi-Dimensional Artist
Isaac Perez Solano,
“Writers are always advised to write about what they know best,” Dorothy West, the Harlem Renaissance writer, reflected ruefully once. I consider that artists should do the same. Christabel MacGreevy, the English artist who is inspired by Louise Bourgeois, by the drawings of Carol Rama and by the poetry of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, seems to be working under the intention of my statement (the one after West’s, of course.) She’s dressed Courtney Love and is sold out.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.
If the 30s are the new 20s and 20s are the new teens, what visual codes would you use to decipher female identity?
Female identity is a societal construct. There are learned behaviors that we all act out. The performance is important in helping us self-identify. But it is also important to subvert behavioral expectations, and be open to nonconformity.
Is knowing your own self something natural to human beings, or is it a cultural creation?
Knowing oneself is innate to humankind, although people vary in how well or how nuanced their personal understanding is. Even gorillas know that they are gorillas, and have an idea of their own identity. It is hard-wired in our animal makeup.
How deep do you know Christabel MacGreevy?
I think I know myself profoundly, yet you can still be disarmed sometimes.
Will that (your previous answers) affect directly the fact of being an artist at 27 years old?
I can only answer for myself. For me, as I have gained a better understanding of who I am, the more able I am to dig in to myself and create. It is a balance of instinct and experience. I have always had a broad output of creativity, from illustration to textiles, fashion, drawing and sculpture.
For a long time, the different strands felt quite disparate, but I am now starting to see the threads between them tying them together and seeing how, at the end of the line, they will unite.
Do you trust introspection to create or do you rely on something else?
I need quietness, and time alone with my thoughts, and enough gestation period for something to grow. On the flip side, I need chance conversations, the radio, research and looking at art in books or museums.
There’s an artistic current destined to become a key referent of the digital era, don’t you agree?
Social media is becoming an art medium now in the same way that a canvas has been historically. At its worst, it is a self-centered art form that revolves around controlling personal perception and identity. At its best, it is a way to touch people instantly in a language they understand.
“I CAN ONLY ANSWER FOR MYSELF, I’VE ALWAYS HAD A BROAD OUTPUT OF CREATIVITY, FROM ILLUSTRATION TO TEXTILES,FASHION, DRAWING AND SCULPTURE” – CHRISTABEL MACGREEVY
Beyond a pencil and paper, what do you think it’s the most powerful tool to express yourself?
Who are your heroes, then?
I have always had lots of heroes. My childhood heroes were my older brothers, Ivo and Hubert, and some older girls in sixth form.
Current heroes include artists William Blake and Alice Neel, poets T. S. Eliot and Nayyirah Waheed, political agitators Cleopatra and Christabel Pankhurst, and style icons Grace Jones and Michèle Lamy.
Now that you have experienced the sweet smell of success with your brand Itchy Scratchy Patchy, co-founded with her lifelong friend, the British model Edie Campbell] and your way of art… How do you think it would have gone for them [your heroes] if they lived in these times?
Success is a huge amount down to luck and timing. People’s stories cannot be separated from the times in which they were living. Through adversity, some people still rise and make beautiful things. But there is no guarantee for talent.
Do you believe in boundaries?
The bigger the boundaries, the more you have to fight against. The clearer the parameters, the more you define and hone your response. It’s fundamental to a line of thought, research or making of art to instill personal, physical, imaginative or psychological boundaries.
“THE BIGGER THE BOUNDARIES, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO FIGHT AGAINST. THE CLEARER THE PARAMETERS, THE MORE YOU DEFINE AND HONE YOUR RESPONSE” – CHRISTABEL MACGREEVY
What’s the most surreal memory you have ever experienced in real life?
My earliest memory has become a surreal and hazy narrative.
Falling out of my high chair eating a watermelon-iced lolly, and the black watermelon seeds lying all around me on the floor.
Speaking of surreal ones, Max Ernst said once: “I succeeded in simply attending at the birth of all my works.” What would be your motto in life?
My life motto would be – “Just get on with it. Use intuition and instinct. Don’t overthink things or you will paralyze yourself.”
Isaac Perez Solano
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