By Becky Hancock
Molly Stredwick is a recent graduate from Painting at Camberwell. Stredwick’s practice revolves around personal experiences of navigating the world as a woman. Through fragments of motives and symbolism, the paintings allow the viewer to interpret their own narrative. Through gestural imagery and everyday objects, Stredwick suggests a disconnection from reality whilst exploring a sense of immediacy through the process of painting.
This is a transcript of a conversation with some post-editing after the event.
B: Would you like to introduce yourself and your practice?
M: Yeah, I’m Molly Stredwick, I’m a painter, I recently graduated from Camberwell studying painting. At the moment I am making work in Eastbourne about themes of moving home and being back in a place that I didn’t imagine myself to be. My work is about my life, and I’m not doing anything at the moment, so it’s all just elements bundled together seeing how they interact with one another.
My work is usually about documenting my life and experiences as a woman, but because I am at home with my parents and lockdown, I’m not doing anything. I feel like I am floating around which I think is obvious in my work too. It’s just about, really, mundane things. I feel like I am all over the place with my work at the moment.
B: That feeling of floating around is understandable being in this weird time at the moment – It’s interesting how you have translated that into your work with objects and gestures floating in a space.
What would you say your motivations and inspirations in being an artist are?
M: I think when I started painting, my biggest motivation was finding a way for people to understand me and as a way of working through some personal issues too. More recently, I have been exploring painting as a subject rather than as a medium, which has been really interesting for me as it’s not something I have previously thought about. I’m thinking more about how I apply the paint to the canvas and what effect that has. I think this shift in focus has been interesting for me – It is still very self absorbed though.
B: Using art as a way to understand to yourself is great – artists are the most self reflective! A pro and a con?
How has lockdown affected your practice? You mentioned to me earlier that you have been working in different spaces?
M: When the pandemic first started, I was in my final year at Camberwell. Degree show was cancelled, graduation cancelled. I had all of a sudden gone from working in a studio with loads of people, being able to ask whenever ‘what do you think of this’ etc, to working in my bedroom in my flat. I couldn’t do any painting because I was renting! I basically stopped making work. Obviously I had to finish the degree, so I had to make work to ‘show’, so I did small drawings. I then moved home and had to figure out how to be an artist not at uni. Finding the space and time is really hard. The space I am in at the moment is great because I can finally make big work again, I am so excited. The pandemic has made me think about my work a lot more, what I want from it and what is important to me. During uni, I was producing so much work that I wasn’t really thinking about what I was making – not a bad thing, but in comparison now I am putting more thought into it.
B: Yes! Congratulations on being the first artist at Hypha Studios! It must feel great to be in a studio again.
M: It’s really nice, it’s a massive space. I am able to prime canvas on the floor! I couldn’t do that at Camberwell. It has made me realise that I really need a studio again and to find somewhere to work after this. I thought it was fine, I accepted not being able to make large work, but being here I can’t stop.
B: So, what’s your plan after this?
M: I volunteer in a shop and the owners mentioned to me that they have a barn they don’t use. She said it’s massive with open walls to do big paintings. So it is perfect for the summer as it will be freezing otherwise, but that will be really nice.
It will be different to working here as it will be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to have a space again.
B: How were you dealing with the changes of not having a studio? Did the scale or medium change?
M: When I first started working in my flat, I started painting small but it wasn’t working. I started drawing which was fine but I wasn’t interested in carrying it on. When I moved home I did some bigger paintings, for my exhibition in Hastings, it still wasn’t the same though. Now, being able to work really big has made me realise the importance of scale in my work. This was something I hadn’t considered was actually important in my work. I thought it was just because why not work big if I have the space at uni. It was such a shock not having that space anymore, it didn’t feel like anything was working. All proportions were wrong! [laughs] It was weird to leave and realise size was an integral part of my practice that I didn’t know about.
B: I noticed that as soon as you moved into Hypha studios you were instantly working big, it must’ve felt like such a relief.
M: When I did my first painting at Camberwell it was overwhelming, but now I love it.
B: What are the three most essential objects/routines/materials that start your process?
M: I procrastinate, I go on Pinterest. It’s lame. I’ve got a board full of paintings, it’s a great way to see everything I like in one space. I get my sketchbook and draw interesting shapes or elements that I think would work in a painting. Usually I start with a scenario that I want to interpret onto the canvas, but like I was saying it doesn’t feel like my work is about storytelling at the moment so it takes me longer to figure out. Whereas, previously, it would be straight on the canvas. It’s been a learning curve that maybe you should sit down and think first.
I think top three: Sketchbook, coffee and pinterest!
B: What would you say is an essential read/watch for artists right now?
M: I really want to read books about art, but I just don’t.
B: I like that you have said that, it doesn’t work for all artists!
M: The only books I’ve got with me in the studio are these: Chicago images book! This is an essential read I’d say actually. Secondly, a book about cowboy boots ‘ The Art of the Boot’. I got it in a second hand bookshop, it’s just all about cowboy boots! These are my essential reads!
B: I love that! Good inspiration.
M: Picture books! When I do read something and I really resonate with it, I’m invested but I find it too difficult usually. So much art writing is so dense!
B: Very true! Thank you for your time Molly!
M: Thanks for talking to me, I learnt loads about myself actually.