In the Studio with Rosa Luetchford / Reclaiming the female muse
Rosa Luetchford painting in her studio, 2017
Whether they were Renaissance portrait painters, 20th century sculptors, or even modern day art graduates, women in the visual arts have faced overwhelming discrimination throughout history. Wimbledon College of Art graduate Rosa Luetchford’s paintings comment on these forgotten female artists, thoughout history to the present day. Luetchford employs an academic style of painting that plays on a traditional depiction of the female subject, with references to icon paintings. Her figures are often conjoined from the waist up, joining them in symbiosis. Her abstracted bodies clash with an intimate portrayal of the faces of her subjects, acting as a meeting point for traditional and contemporary painting styles. Although her subjects’ bodies are united, their gazes are their own.
This Women’s History Month we went behind the scenes in Rosa’s studio space to find out more about her painting process, her time studying in Bologna and the inspiration behind her current collection.
Tell us about yourself and your practice? Where are you currently based?
I am 22 and have just recently graduated from the BA Fine Art: Painting course at Wimbledon College of Art. I am originally from the Kent coast but I am currently based in London.
How long have you been practicing?
I have been painting from a young age but discovered oils whilst at secondary school. It is from then on that my style and interests began to clearly develop into what is apparent in my practice today.
Please tell us about your time studying at Wimbledon?
Studying at Wimbledon was a very special time for me. I wanted to study there because of the specialist painting course. It was exciting to be on a course with like-minded people who appreciate painting in the same way that I do. As a group we pushed and encouraged each other but also creatively challenged one another as the course was full of dedicated and talented artists. Wimbledon has created a community for me that I will be a part of for a long time.
Rosa Luetchford working on 'Victoria & Chilly' , 2017 & 'To Wear A Suit', 2017
Tell us about your time at Accademia di Belle Arti Bologna? What did you take away from the experience? Have you found that your time in Bologna influenced your style?
Studying in Bologna was an invaluable experience. It challenged me as a person as well as a painter. The style of learning in Italy is very different to that of an English art school. Personally, I found it a little too formulaic for my inclinations. I was originally drawn to studying there because of their rich art history and traditional techniques; however, I soon learned I was appreciative of the independent and contemporary learning style of most English art schools.
My time in Bologna definitely influenced my style, I was obsessed with the religious iconography and especially the depiction of women in the dozens of churches I visited. I spent my time there doing a lot of research that was very beneficial in the final year of my BA and my practice today.
Tell us about your studio space? How do you usually work in the space?
I have recently got a new studio space in West London. I am excited about being involved in what seems to be a very vibrant artistic community there. Although I prefer to paint alone I think it is important to have people around you to learn from and talk to about the work. I usually like to have everything organised in my space with a lot of reference material around. Music is also important to me whilst working.
'Three Women', oil on canvas, in progress
Can you tell us about your printing process and/or technique?
My prints are created in a very different way to my paintings. When I paint I am very logical in the process and it can be time-consuming. I think of my prints as quick paced drawings. The quicker and more instinctively I do them the more successful they tend to turn out. I work with mono-print so every mark made is irreversible. A lot of them are closely derived from reference material I am looking at in relation to my paintings. Many are made from Mexican ex-voto paintings or sometimes completely from imagination. I use them as a quick creative expression; they come in very useful when I am struggling with a painting.
Please tell us about the ideas behind your paintings?
My paintings have always been an extension of current issues that concern me. My family has always been very socially and politically involved so I have grown up being aware of how power impacts on the status of women. When I became more aware of the art world, I realised how significant this is for female artists across cultures. My paintings often feature men too as I am often thinking about how these issues affect them also.
'Victoria & Chilly', oil on canvas, in progress
We're delighted to be hosting your work in our Spring Exhibition. Can you tell us about the paintings you have selected? Do you have a favourite?
The paintings I have selected are all quite different I think. They are all pieces with individual processes and ideas behind them. Victoria and Chilly is of two artists I studied with, I painted their faces first and then created the rest of the piece in a similar manner to my mono-prints. It was important to me that they appeared connected but also as individual people.
Every piece has an imitative portrayal of the face but then there are abstracted elements making up the surrounding areas. The abstraction acts as a way to manipulate the narrative of the works. I often like to create characters in my pieces, whether that's by altering the model’s original identity by putting a wig on them like Marshian Man, or physically drawing a suit onto the canvas like To Wear a Suit. My favourite piece in the selection of works is Three Women, one of the figures was modelled on my mum.
'Three Women', oil on canvas, 2017 & 'The Room In Marrakech', oil on canvas, 2016.
Your work comments on the forgotten female artists throughout history. Which female artists from the past inspire you? Is there any particular works that inspire you?
Frida Kahlo has and always will inspire me. Her oeuvre was influenced by many different forces. I am particularly interested in her subversion of traditional and religious iconography surrounding the Madonna and her use of the template typical of Mexican ex-voto paintings.The Loving Embrace of the Universe, What the Water Gave Me, My Birth, Henry Ford Hospital and My Nurse and I are all significant pieces to me.
I am also always going back and looking at Alice Neel’s paintings and Maria Lassnig’s animations as a source of research. I try to focus more on their work than their lives but I am also very inspired by their personal stories.
'To Wear A Suit', oil on canvas, 2017 & 'Marshian Man', oil on canvas, 2017.
For Women's History Month we're challenging our visitors to name #5WomenArtists. Can you tell us about 5 female artists working today whose work inspires you?
Aly Helyer last year, had a solo exhibition at Lubomirov/Angus-Hughes gallery which was the second time I had seen her work in the flesh. I find her drawings incredibly precise and direct. I am very interested in how she incorporates multiple figures in one piece, making them appear a part of the same composition instead of separate figures on the same surface.
Last year, I also managed to see Chantal Joffe in conversation with Gemma Blacksaw at the Zabludowicz Collection, that was very motivational. It was inspiring to hear about the process of how she works and about the context of some of her pieces.
Marlene Dumas’ poems were a wonderful discovery for me a few years ago when she had her exhibition The Image as a Burden at the Tate Modern. I am inspired by how she manages to visualise her thoughts and social/political issues onto paper and canvas. Chloe Wise and Claire Tabouret are two artists I am frequently looking at on social media, they both have very distinctive figurative styles.
What’s coming up for you this year? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
This year I will be putting on more group exhibitions. A group of us are in the process of planning one for March/April. I will be spending a lot of dedicated time in the studio, creating more work. I have new ideas that I am currently creating and very enthusiastic about. I am also incredibly inspired by community art projects and working creatively with children and young people. I will be involved in such projects this coming year so I am excited to see how they will influence my painting.
'Zoe & Lucy', Rosa Luetchford, oil on canvas, 2017
Rosa Leutchford's collection is available at The Biscuit Factory as part of the Spring Exhibition 2018, on show until 20 May 2018.