Hetty Douglas, Artist

Hi Hetty, how’re things? I hope all is well with you, and you are excited about the new decade. Could I start by asking you to tell us a little bit about your work? What inspires your work, and where do your ideas come from?

My work is inspired by the complexities of life, based on observations of society, surroundings and self. 

Is it fair to call your work painting? You tend to work on canvas, but you work with lots of different materials and media, often not typically associated with painting.

Yes, I work a lot with cement and filler. I work a lot with texture; these heavy materials bulge out from a flat canvas. Alongside those materials though, I always layer with acrylic, spray paint and sometimes oil. So, yeah I’d say they’re paintings.

And you studied fashion illustration at university. How would you say that informs your work today?

I don’t think the course informed my work at all, really. Uni, for me, was a way of moving out of Nottingham. I’ve met great artists and seen incredible things here in London; all of those moments are what inform my work. 

You’re from a creative family too. How important are clothes to you?

I’m not a huge fan of spending money on clothes. It feels unnatural to me; I don’t like anything over-styled. My mum always wears Levi’s 501s with a linen shirt. She’s an (incredible) artist and a massive influence on me – both style-wise and creatively.

How much of your work is autobiographical, if at all, do you think?

90%? For me, painting is a way of dealing with life.  

It has been said that your work is often duplicitous, layered with subtext, and slowly reveals itself to the viewer. Would you say that is a fair assessment and is it something you are conscious of in the way you work?

I’d say so. Often, my work has many obvious layers to it, but sometimes I’ll have written something down on a fresh canvas just to “get it out” and then paint over the top. I like knowing that underneath the painting there’s something that only I know about. 

Your work is quite colourful, which could be interpreted as optimistic. Would you say it tends to be, or is there an underlying darkness within it?

I always like to leave unprimed canvas on show. It’s a dull colour, but I like its raw, natural state. I think it’s interesting when deciding what a finished/full painting is. It’s strange how I can often use bright colours in my work; I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly “colourful” person in real life. I use a lot of blue, which to me isn’t necessarily an optimistic colour.  

You were part of a show, Supper, at the Deli Grocery gallery in New York last year. Tell us a bit about that and how that came about.

[American artist] Paul Cooley asked me to be a part of it. He’s sick. I was so happy (and surprised) because one of my favourite painters was also showing in it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the time off work to go over to the States, but from what I saw, the curation was incredible; the space was so interesting. I didn’t think I was into non-white wall spaces, but Paul just pulled this one right off.

What are you excited about for 2020 and what plans do you have for this year?

Potentially doing my first solo show; I think I’m ready. I’m excited to paint more and see where my work takes me. I’m also planning on moving to the seaside for the space.