Snooping Through Studios: Louise Ventris

Louise Ventris is an artist based in Holmfirth, who works from her home studio in what was earmarked to be a summer room though now serves as a studio space she shares with one of her daughters. Working across a range of subject matter including urban landscapes, landscapes, still life and abstracts, Louise captures them all with an incredible sense of luminosity.

She often depicts the fleeting, mundane or overlooked aspects of life. She made a series of paintings that explored the intricate jewel like beauty of flies and during lockdown began exploring aspects of journeys. Court Spencer caught up with her to see her studio space and find out more about her approach to her practice.

Louise Ventris’ studio.

Court: Thank you so much for having me over. This place is stunning. How long have you been here?

Louise: Thanks so much for coming over. We’ve been in the house about 12 years, and I’ve had the studio since lockdown, so just over 2 years now. I’m very fortunate. Before this I had a corner in the kitchen – and it was such a pain having to pack up and put away. It caused my partner, who is incredibly tidy, a lot of frustration living around my creative mess. So much so that me and my daughter have taken over this space without too many complaints.

Work in the studio.

Court: I know you moved from a flat in London to this semi-rural, detached house with amazing views and space for the studio! That’s quite a difference!

Louise: I love living here. It’s amazing to have such stunning countryside on our doorstep and such a change from living in London. However, I do miss the buzz of London and the creative culture which is a little easier to find. There is definitely a lot happening in Yorkshire, but it does take time to find it and tap into it.

Court: Yeah I agree that it can take time to find the things you’re seeking out. So are you a full-time artist or are you also juggling another job?

Louise: I juggle both a job and my art. I get up super early to work in the studio for a few hours before starting the day job. I enjoy running the two different roles side by side. I can have a bad day in the office and it’s brilliant to get into the studio and do something totally different. Although the two roles are very different, there’s so much overlap – and one feeds the other. But I think that’s a whole different conversation.

Court: So what was your journey into art?

Louise: As a child I was always drawing and then I followed the route of GCSEs and A levels. I loved the freedom of my foundation course and I went on to study Fine Art. At the time, it felt very traditional which was quite challenging. I’ve always painted, it’s been a constant in my life. But now, with my children getting that bit older, and the ability to work more from home, there’s much more time for painting.

Court: Where there any other mediums you explored or have you always been drawn to painting?

Louise: For me It’s always been painting. I love to paint. There are always new challenges which is important to me. I continually need to progress and push myself and my work because I don’t like to feel that I’m standing still. I can’t paint the same painting over and over, it kills the creativity for me. One of my loves for painting is that you’ve never mastered it. There is so much more to learn and explore. I’m enjoying colour and colour mixing at the moment, and challenging myself with limiting my palette and pushing the colour mixing quite hard.

Court: That’s interesting! Your work is quite varied in the subject matter and I really like the way your colour palletes capture light across different settings. Can you please talk a bit about that, and how you came to paint the series of flies?

Louise: I see things which interest me or capture my attention. I can’t always put my finger on why this is but I’m learning to trust myself and go with it. I see things which are often overlooked or unnoticed. A recent example, I was on my morning run and the light reflecting of a road sign was luminescent. It was positively glowing. I have passed this road sign nearly every day for the past 10 years and not really seen it or noticed it. But I had to stop and take a load of photos. It probably won’t ever become anything but then again it might.

I worked on a series of fly paintings, just regular flies. Most people either don’t notice a fly or get mildly irritated by them. But when you really look at them, there is something incredibly beautiful about the colour of a blue bottle. The green iridescence and the delicate intricacy of the wings. And at the same time there’s something quite repulsive or repugnant. And that’s an interesting zone to explore. The contrast between something beautiful and repellent.

Work in progress in the studio.

Court: Oh I really like that! I often see things on walks like bird poo or a dead animal that can be quite beautiful. Being able to work across different subject matter must feel particularly liberating. Could you please tell us a little more about your process. Do you sketch whilst you’re out and about, do you take reference photographs to work from in the studio? How do you approach making a painting?

Louise: I haven’t got a fixed process and it can be quite fluid. I go through phases, and there are times when l’ll always carry a sketch book out with me. Or I’ll take loads of reference photos. Sometimes I’ll go out and take the paints with me more for quick sketches or idea generation which I’d then take back to the studio, though it’s a bit cold for this at the minute.

If I’m working from a series of photos – before I move into painting, I’ll make a series of quick sketches to resolve the composition or the tonal quality of the work. I’ll draw in a different way, perhaps more purposefully. l’ll also work on a few small paintings to try things out, but they don’t all make it. I work quickly in acrylic and may work into the painting later in oil. I like to go through a process of adding and removing, building up the painting in layers.

One thing I’ve found which works well for me, if I hit an artist block moving onto something different that uses another way of painting gets my work and ideas progressing again. Often move between more realistic paintings to totally abstract work. My process for abstract painting is very different and it’s more intuitive and I let the paintings just come. Sometimes in doing this I’ll learn something new which I can use elsewhere.

Court: It feels like you’re inspired by the everyday. Would that be a fair assumption? And are there any other inspirations that play a part in your work? Subject matter, other artists, periods in history etc?

Louise: I’m definitely inspired by the everyday. I’m not seeking beauty in the mundane but enjoy seeing things which are often not seen or neglected. With the road and night paintings there was a space where realism slides into abstraction which continues to interest me.

I’m continually blown away by the work of Gerard Ritcher and his ability to create paintings of incredible range. Then the work of Paula Rego and her powerful stories. The way Martin Brooks uses paint is poetic. Mia Bergeron is a firm favourite, and she’s produced a body of nocturnal paintings which is interesting. There are so many amazing artist that I enjoy. Instagram is a fantastic resource especially if I need motivating to get into the studio.

Louise Ventris, Moment on the road, 2020.

Court: What’s been your career highlight to date?

Louise: This year I was accepted into the Leeds Summer Group Show, it was phenomenal to show work alongside some interesting artists like Richard Baker, Gillian Holding and Viv Owen. More recently it was fantastic to be part of this year’s Mercer Open. I’m always very pleased to get accepted into an exhibition, or if I sell a piece of work it feels amazing that someone has connected with what I do. One of the first pieces of work I sold, was to an amazing artist whose work I’m a massive fan of, that was definitely one of my highlights.

Court: Do you have a dream project or something you would love to make happen?

Louise: A couple of things I want to do this coming year. I’d like to get out of my comfort zone and work on a series of much larger paintings, and open my studio as part of Holmfirth Art Week.

Work in progress in the studio.

Court: They sound like great things to make happen in the new year! Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you’re working on at the moment?

Louise: I’ve got a few paintings in the Mercer Open which is on until 8 Jan 2023. Nothing definite at the moment. I’m talking with Mercer about something in 2024 and there are a few projects lining up for next year but nothing set in stone.

 Court: And what’s the best way for people to follow you and keep in touch with your work?

Louise: On Instagram or my website are probably the best ways for keeping in touch.

Court: Brill! Thank you so much for your time, tea and pastries! I cannot wait to see more of your work.

Louise: Thanks Court it was an absolute pleasure.