Interview with Artist & Curator Rose Strang

Not all Artists are Curators and not all Curators are Artists however; as the time goes by I am discovering many who are comfortable with the dual role of showcasing their work while engaging and preparing for the exhibits of others as well. Edinburgh, Scotland UK based Artist and Curator Rose Strang houses a profound depth to expose our globe to the Arts on so many levels. One, thing that I have noticed about Rose’s pieces is that they feel as though they are private mandala’s of nature; echoing the desire to be free within ourselves and our surroundings which enrich our essence with their exquisite beauty.

For more information on Rose and her wonderful pieces seek no further than her 
blog; moreover please do not forget to follow Rose on social media via Facebook and Twitter!

Rania: Are you a classically trained artist?

Rose: Partly yes, in that I went to Art College and got a degree! But my subjects were Sculpture and Film, also collaboration and inter-disciplinary arts, so it wasn’t entirely traditional. Painting was part of the degree course but it wasn’t really until much later after Art College that I started to really focus on painting. I saw Art College as a time to explore really.

Also I studied Museum and Gallery Curation, Post Graduate, at St Andrew’s University.

Rania: What is your earliest painting memory?

Rose: I have very happy memories of painting hundreds of funny animals dressed in odd clothing, which I’d cut out and position around the house, particularly at my granny’s house. So she’d open, for example, the drinks cupboard to find lots of these bizarrely dressed animals staring back at her!

Rania: What is your favourite medium to create with?

Rose: I use whatever’s convenient really, which at the moment is acrylic. I work quickly so the fact it’s fast-drying suits me. It’s very adaptable and lasts well. I add in various things for texture – salt, sand, sometimes moulding paste and household paint.

Rania: How long does it normally take you to create one of your paintings?

Rose: It depends on deadlines to some extent , and size of course. What I prefer is to build up layers, take a day or so to think about it then continue, so the painting develops organically, but time’s a luxury. I’m deliberately taking two months to create three 40 by 40 inch paintings for an exhibition in March. But I can create two small works in one day, sometimes it’s better to work fast, you can get in to a flow where you’re barely thinking and it just seems to happen.

Rania: What was it that compelled you to start painting in the first place?

Rose: As a teenager, it was just something I did and enjoyed without thinking about, then at Art College it was part of our studies. After Art College and Art Curation Training I’d worked as a curator for the NHS for about five years, and decided to pack it in after a long struggle with bureaucracy and restrictions. Also politically I disagreed with the way I had to work in some hospitals because of private finance initiatives in the NHS. It made the process somewhat cynical and unwieldy. During that time the thing that really uplifted me and gave me perspective was Landscape Photography, so painting landscape, or nature, was an extension of that, it just developed naturally, then because people liked them I started to sell them. It wasn’t very planned to start with.

Rania: Please tell me a bit about your upcoming exhibitions?

Rose: At the moment I’m in the midst of painting for an upcoming exhibition at Edinburgh’s Scottish Storytelling Centre which launches on the 26th March. I’ve also invited other artists to participate, including a music composer, a poet, photographer and craft-makers. The theme is the Isle of Eigg, which I visited on two occasions last year and absolutely loved. So the exhibition explores different perspectives and responses to landscape, in different art forms. Also collaborations are a part of it, between myself, the poet (JL Williams) and musician (Atzi Muramatsu) who I’ve worked with over the years. It’s a wonderful inspiration to collaborate; I find the process quite magical

Rania: Where is the one place in the world you would like to paint?

Rose: There are lots of places I’d love to paint, particularly the landscapes of South East Asia. Even within the UK light varies enormously from north to south, so I’d find it fascinating to paint somewhere closer to the sun. I love paintings, drawings and prints from the Ukiyo E period in Japan; the atmosphere they captured. A lot of those paintings were about the ephemeral world, about fleeting pleasures, Geishas, court-life and so on, but it’s the landscapes that fascinate me.

Rania: Last month I challenged myself to write 31 poems in 31 days; I had to be quite disciplined as I do not know if I would want to do this again. With painting it is different your tools go beyond a pen and paper, you have to cart your paints, brushes, canvas, easel everyday somewhere new. I am quite curious as to how you felt during the beginning, middle and end process of your “50 Paintings of Eigg in 50 Days?”

Rose: You’re right, it does require discipline, and it’s amazing how many distractions can get in the way! But you probably found, like me, that it became easier after the first week, then when it ends you feel a little bit bereft! I began the 50 paintings on Eigg, but I couldn’t stay there for more than a few days at the time, so I actually painted most of the series from home, based on sketches and photographs. I often use photographs as a starting point, but don’t simply copy what’s there. My process is mostly fairly organic – building up layers and creating atmosphere

Rania: If a buyer is interested; where can your paintings be purchased?

Rose: I sell directly to customers, but also advertise any up-coming exhibitions on my 
blog and Facebook Art Page.

My works cost pretty much the same whether bought from a gallery or sold directly because prices have to be consistent.

Rain Shower. Acrylic and Ink on 10×10″ Wood 
Rania: What do you prefer: being an Artist or Curator?

Rose: I think I need both to be happy. Painting is a solitary activity, and curating requires lots of interaction with people. Also collaborating with other artists is very rewarding as it feeds creative inspiration.

Rania: Art & anxiety seem to go hand in hand; what are your coping techniques?

Rose: I enjoy the challenge of facing a new canvas; it feels to me a challenge that’s copeable with since it’s all down to me - I know I can rely on myself most of the time! It does, as you say, go hand in hand with a certain anxiety – no matter how many times you do it, there’s always self doubt. I suppose I just get on with it, that’s my way of coping. Each time you create a new work that builds your confidence in the longer run. Also, I try not to pressure myself if I feel what I’m creating isn’t going as well as I’d like, I just keep painting. Sometimes I simplify it. As you know as an artist and writer, it’s impossible to be consistent. You want every work to be inspirational, and you do your best, but it can’t always happen.

Rania: Do you have any artist’s rituals before starting a new piece?

Rose: Yes, that’s part of the coping with anxiety process isn’t it?!

I prepare my space, make sure it’s in order because I know chaos will soon kick in. Also wear the right clothes, so I can make a mess and also feel comfortable. I play music that has the right mood for the painting. I sometimes wear a perfume that creates a certain mood too. Even just laying down gesso to prime the piece gets me into a certain headspace. There can’t be too many distractions so I might switch off phones if possible.

Rania: All artists go through a creative block, how do you contend with yours?

Rose: My work becomes more representational when my imagination isn’t flowing. I just paint what I see, and in that process usually inspiration happens, though not always. I’ve heard some people say that you have to paint nearly every single day to stay in some sort of ‘zone’ but that doesn’t work for me, I like to take time to let ideas float to the surface, walk around in landscapes, or explore other artist’s work because that’s when better ideas present themselves – you have to take time to be receptive to the world. But, once the painting starts it becomes somewhat easier.

Another thing I constantly do, is look at other artists’ work, which can be an inspiration, it can open imaginative windows and suggest different techniques.

Rania: If you had a super-power what would it be?

RoseMaybe to fly, and paint photos from interesting angles! Or to make more money?! My biggest stress is earning a living. Money can opens lots of doors creatively. Having said that though, earning money doesn’t ‘stay with me’ in the same way that responses to my paintings do. Sometimes a buyer will say how a work makes them feel – perhaps it reminds them of someone they care about who’s passed away, or they might be house-bound due to illness, so paintings of landscape are uplifting to the spirit. Or it ‘captures’ a landscape they’re very familiar with, in a way they like.

That’s powerful isn’t it? To be able to enhance someone’s enjoyment of life through painting, that’s a blessing. When you look at the lives of many well known artists, they paint or create until they can’t any longer, so it’s more than a vocation, being creative eventually defines you. It’s a strength and an anchor in many ways. 


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