Words by Sinead Nunes, Editor
Cherie Grist will be appearing as one of the visual artists when Threshold V opens its exhibition doors in a few weeks time. We caught with the artist to talk about her abstract work.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I studied Fashion design and then photography at college here in Liverpool, then got a place at The University of the Arts, London College of Fashion to study Fashion Styling & Photography. I was more interested in using my film camera as a tool for expressing my thoughts than doing fashion shoots so focused my attention on photographing whatever I felt like. Like my paintings, all of my shoots were automatic so I photographed my moods, self portraits without my head in it.
I got quite deep at university with my projects; I think living in London and being on my own I had chance to really get stuck in and I started writing and drawing to untangle my thoughts and express my feelings. I was approached by a photographer at our graduate exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and assisted him for 2 years. I continued exploring my self portrait project in my own time then decided to come back home to Liverpool to focus 100% on figuring out what it was I wanted and needed to say.
I got my first studio on Victoria Street and I started to paint because I found it was the quickest and most satisfying way to express my thoughts. My first ever painting, There you Are, was shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize in 2010, and I took that as a sign – this wasn’t only something I enjoyed, but I something could do well. I moved to a bigger studio space in Wolstenhome Creative Space and whilst there, another one of my paintings And back again was shortlisted for the Cass Art prize down in London. In 2013 after the sad closure of Wolstenholme Creative Space, me and my two friends took a building in Liverpool city centre (104 Duke Street) and rented out spaces to other artists. At the moment I work full time as an artist, and run the studio/gallery too. We had our first exhibition there last year and hope to have another this year.
Your work is very abstract – what draws you to this style of painting?
I love Abstract Expressionism! It’s so free and raw and just beautiful. It is my insides, everything that makes me me, poured out into visual facts for me to observe and begin to understand. Its funny; my two favourite styles of art are Abstract Expressionism and Geometric Abstraction, completely opposite. I have days when my brain is that chocker I paint and paint thrashing paint everywhere. It’s like a mind/body work out. Then other days I need to sit quietly carefully painting lines. Its meditation, my brain is switched off and I’m in a trance. I could never just do one of them though – it would have to be both. A bit like my brain – controlled yet chaotic!
Painting is sometimes seen as a more traditional medium, but ongoing awards like the John Moores Painting Prize prove otherwise – what do you think?
I don’t just see painting as traditional really, I mean I know what you mean when you say that but I think people were probably expressing themselves in all kinds of ways that maybe weren’t as well documented as painting was. I paint because I have to! I’d go mad if I didn’t and I’m sure painters in the future as well as the past will continue to do so forever. To me, painting will always be contemporary too.
How will you respond to the theme of “Contrasting Geometries”?
Responding to ‘Contrasting Geometries’ is quite easy for me. It’s what I do anyway so it’s the perfect brief. I get what I need to get out first of all with gestural marks then I get my ruler out and pattern it up. I never have any idea what it will look like in the end – I just draw/paint. Although, I do go through shape phases; I think I’ve just got over my triangle obsession and before that it was squares. I’m a little worried now that I’m leaning towards chevrons again.
What are you most looking forward to on Liverpool’s art scene this year (aside from Threshold V of course!)?
I’ve been back in Liverpool now for nearly 5 years. When I came back, there seemed to be loads going on in the art scene here, but after a year or two and then the closure of Wolstenholme it seemed to go super quiet with not much happening. This year though, I feel like the city is finding its inspiration again and people seemed to be ready to do things and get creative so I’m really looking forward to seeing things open and blossom and people to just get arty! I think it is going be a great year for the city and if my first month of the year’s anything to go by, for me also!
You were involved in the last ever exhibition at Liverpool Academy of Arts – what was it like to see the gallery disappear?
I think it was just heartbreaking! I loved that space, everything it stood for and the people who kept it going. It is just a tragedy that our city could let a place like that disappear. It was a space where every kind of artist who was brave enough to want to show their work could, and be accepted no matter what! It was unique and I am proud to have been part of it.
What’s next for Cherie Grist?
Well last year was a great year for me creatively but this year already has proved to be something way beyond what I could have imagined. I woke up in 2015 with a completely different outlook – I feel like everything has clicked into place and I have finally settled into a rhythm.
I am currently working on a new series of paintings which are a bit bigger (15 foot x 6 foot) and they’ve taken on a new style and attitude themselves. I want to continue selling my work and being part of exciting exhibitions and watching my work develop further. We are hoping to hold our 2nd exhibition at 104 Duke Street studios this year too, so I’m looking forward to that. And other than working hard and going on lots of holidays for inspiration, only the world will know what else will happen next!
You can keep up to date with the latest announcements for the visual art, theatre and music strands of the festival at thresholdfestival.co.uk