Cherie Grist Feature & Interview
Originally published 12 February, 2016
One of the first things that struck me upon observing – and exploring – the world of fashion is the extent to which it mirrors, informs and draws inspiration from its co-existent creative industries. Any doubts surrounding this theory are instantly quelled once these domains are closely inspected: whether it manifests in garments, artwork or liberal performances, there is undoubtedly correlation between societal movements and creative evolution. A prominent example in recent times is the subject matter of gender fluidity, which has spawned an increased broad-mindedness on the part of designers to interchange male and female models in their catwalk shows and ad campaigns. Designers such as Jonny Johansson of Acne and Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler have generated considerable intrigue from the former’s decision to send out Spring 2016 menswear models in platform heels and the latter’s groundbreaking placement of a heeled male model, all clad in black, showing off an outfit from the New York brand’s AW15 womenswear collection. Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2016 selection has also reflected this development in society (a topic I elaborated on at the end of last year) while numerous musicians have embraced gender-bending, many citing the inimitable David Bowie as a pioneer of androgynous, flamboyant performances. Art is equally influenced by these factors – one recent revelation was triggered by a Somalia-born, NYC-based artist named Uman, who is garnering acclaim for her redefinition of “outsider art”. One could continue to draw infinite parallels between each of these inventive sectors, but the fact remains that one common denominator binds them together: they are all indispensable forms of expression, captivating the senses to convey viewpoints in a manner that words cannot always achieve.
A shining example of this field of thought is Cherie Grist, a Liverpool-based artist whose mesmerisingly colourful artworks – which encompass eclectic diptychs, wood-backed acrylic art and vibrant prints – derive inspiration from photography, fashion and in-depth artistry. Tapping into an innate desire to convey her artistic vision to the world, she initiated a career in fashion styling and photography through studying at the London College of Fashion, having always viewed art as a side interest. After increasing realisation that her passion for art – and conveying herself organically through this medium – was becoming far greater than a secondary pursuit, she returned to Liverpool six years ago and delved into creating kaleidoscopic works. Specialising in Abstract Expressionism, Grist’s creative approach is as autobiographical as it is automatic: her enthralling works act as a gateway to her sub-conscious, expressing innermost thoughts and feelings so naturally that even the artist herself gains a greater understanding of her own mental psyche once the piece is completed. I spoke with Grist on her refreshingly-liberal creative process, the contrasts between working in London and Liverpool and the importance of embracing one’s artistic vision:
When was your interest in art – and your specific medium, Abstract Expressionism – first sparked?
I have been interested in Art for as long as I can even remember. I realised it wasn’t just an interest but more of an absolute necessity when I started college. I always knew I had something to say, I just didn’t know what it was or how to say it. I was drawn to Abstract Expressionism as I got a bit older and became more aware of myself. It was like a light went on and everything clicked into place. I had finally found the most natural way to express myself and off I went.
Your career encompasses a background in fashion styling and photography, having honed these skills at the London College of Fashion – what spurred you on to pursue a subsequent career as an artist?
It just kind of happened naturally for me. Even when I was planning my photography shoots I always had the same purpose/desire to convey my vision to the world and how I saw things. Then with time and practice, exploring different mediums, I found painting a lot more instant and natural to me. I could see and evaluate my expressions straight away and I found it the most useful way to express what I needed to say. It also allowed me a way to combine all my interests in and throwing paint about instantly satisfied me. It keeps me sane.
“And back again” – 60″ x 60″
Mixed media on wallpaper on wood
Do you feel that having trained and worked in one of the world’s epicenters of design has influenced your work – or your approach towards art – in any way?
I suppose being in the capital at London College of Fashion is a different kind of university experience than most others. You’re in the middle of the west end of London and you just have to crack on. There was no slacking or student pub crawls – really it was all about your work. It felt like we were all instantly in the industry and had to forge our paths from the beginning. I learnt subconsciously to trust my vision and realised straight away that what I had to say was the most important thing and that I just needed to find out how the best way for me to do that was. So yes, I think it has had a huge influence on me as it has made me trust and believe in my own vision.
What are your greatest sources of inspiration when creating art; does this change depending on each piece?
I’d probably say photography is my biggest influence; then fashion, then art. I love Saul Leiter, Harry Gruyaert and Daido Moriyama – their photos blow my mind. I love abstract images with depth. The shapes, angles, light and the contrast, love, love, love them! I am also a major catwalk stalker! I wait in anticipation for the new shows so with fashion weeks I could die with excitement. I love any kind of print so when a designer goes print mad I love it. Chanel’s Cruise 2015/16 collection for instance! Wow! The patterns and colour combinations! Every single season Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou are amazing! I’m also a major Moschino fan too again for the same reason, Jeremy Scotts‘ colour palette! I love it! I think it’s more like I am constantly absorbing and researching then when I paint, it all just comes out.
“The Transition” 60″ x 60″
Mixed media on wallpaper on wood
I am also massive on people’s ways. Experiences really inspire me. I like to really reflect on people’s behaviour and mine too obviously. I just absorb everything, then let it process through my work. I try and document everything that’s going on in my life, that’s why I see all my paintings as self portraits really. Oh and I have to say one of my favourite artists is Jean Michel Basquiat. I look at his work a lot because it inspires me to stay free with my expressions. Sometimes it’s easy to get a bit stiff and precious, especially when I’m near the end of a painting and I don’t want to ruin it. I take one look at a piece of his and I remember to go wild.
Your vibrant artworks are incredibly expressive and liberal in nature – what does your usual creative process involve?
My process is often I stare at my canvas or wood for a little while, then I just go for it. Some days I feel like throwing paint about, picking whatever colour my subconscious chooses and whatever brush is nearest. Then other days I need to paint really calmly and that’s when I do my small geometric patterns. It totally depends how I’m feeling that day. I can’t force either style so I just have to go with my own flow. I will usually work on each painting for about 3 months. Sometimes continuously, other times I’ll get impatient and start a new piece. At the minute I’ve got 4 on the go but I try to focus on one more so the painting has a continuous flow. I will add a new layer each day I work on my painting so that they build up. Visual records layered on top of each other until it’s complete and has turned into a visual diary of months of inspiration, experiences and thoughts. You can usually tell what kind of time I’ve been having when reflecting back on them. I have also started writing short poems whilst I paint. I thought it would be useful to have a written record that I could reflect on.
“Fighting” 50″ x 50″
Acrylic and gloss on wood
If you could collaborate on a project with any creative – from the past or present – who would it be?
I am madly in love with Karl Lagerfeld so I would have to say him or I’d never forgive myself haha, if he could use one of my paintings for a fabric print on one of his collections for Chanel my life would be complete!
What is your current stance on Liverpool’s art/design industries, and its support for emerging creative talents?
Liverpool is a strange one. When I first came back in 2010 it had a really good underground art scene, there was always a private view to go to and as the city became more vibrant, I felt it lost that a little. Buildings that housed artists and were exhibitions took place are being bought up by big businesses, it’s really sad but good for the city financially I suppose. In our studio we are so lucky to be right in the centre and have a fabulous landlord that hasn’t sold out. As for support I am not aware of any, which is quite sad. That’s why it’s important to put the time in and trust yourself and believe that one day you’ll be recognised for your talent and hard work. I love Liverpool though, it’s a mega creative city full of mega talented people.
“Please Stop” – Print on Giclee fine art paper
What do you feel are the differences – and merits – in establishing oneself as an artist in Liverpool compared to a sprawling metropolis like London, having garnered experience working in both cities?
The reason I moved back to Liverpool was so I could afford a studio space. Having both a home and a work space in London would have been impossible so that is the main plus with establishing yourself in Liverpool, things are just more affordable. At the moment me and my Artist friend Colette rent a big building right in the centre of town, then sublet spaces to other artists. That would be a pipe dream down in London for us. We have held exhibitions there and in other sites around Liverpool so it’s just a lot more accessable and easier to be creative. It enables you to be a bit more free with your creative ideas and there is always someone wanting to collaborate. London is good for the thing that all artists need, isolation. It can be a bit too easy in Liverpool to just have fun so it’s harder to stay disciplined. In London you have no choice but to work, concentrate and survive.
“Everyone” 50″ x 50″
Acrylic and gloss on wood
What advice would you give to any young artists looking to forge a career in this industry?
My advice would be to get your head down and try hard to establish what it is you feel you need to do or say then trust yourself and your vision. Work extremely hard and most of all believe in yourself and your abilities. It’s so difficult at the start of your career to want to give up and think about money, but if you really want to do this job then you have to think past that and trust that what you’re doing is more important. Hard work then more hard work!
What can we expect to see next from you?
I’m at a really exciting stage in my career. I’m confident and trust my vision and I feel now is a perfect time to broaden my horizons. I have a quite big solo show in 2017 which I am working on right now and have a few other things going on. Also something new for me, a collaboration in the pipeline, unfortunately not with Karl Lagerfeld! But very exciting all the same!
“You Already Know pt1” 60″ x 60″; Acrylic, gloss and emulsion on wood
Cherie Grist is based in 104 Duke Street Studios, Liverpool, and will exhibit a solo show entitled “People Are Just People” this year in the city’s Huyton Gallery. Regular updates on upcoming events, developing works and a feast of visual inspiration can be found by following her on Instagram and Twitter – click “here” to visit her website for additional insights on her work, while a number of Cherie Grist artworks are available to purchase in print form “here”. If one thing is certain, it is that Grist’s awe-striking creations have the ability to transport you into a parallel, vividly-hued dimension – I would not be surprised to see her expressive prints adorning the fabric of Chanel’s beloved collections one day!