“The word ‘fortitude’ means demonstrating courage in the face of adversity and/or pain. This is a concept which I strongly felt was present when I got to know the people who formed the paintings in this exhibition”. Pie Herring
London-based artist Pie Herring graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2018 with a First-Class honours degree in painting. Pie’s work has been exhibited in a number of exhibitions. With notable highlights include the ‘Young London Painters’ group show in November 2018 and the Royal Scottish Academy’s New Contemporaries Exhibition 2019 where she was awarded the Carnegie scholarship. Pie’s work has been exhibited at the High Line Nine Gallery in New York as part of a group show entitled The Art of Resilience. Fortitude is Pie’s most recent and first solo exhibit which runs in London until the 23rd, open from 9am-7pm daily from the 9-23rd December 2021 94-96 Wigmore Street London. Alt was lucky enough to talk to Pie about her work practise, painting in Kenya during a pandemic and more..
What a time to open an exhibition in London: congrats on “Fortitude” tell me what it feels like to have your first solo exhibit?
Thank you, it feels good! The show encapsulates the outcome of spending one year painting across two continents, and to see all the work come together for the first time at 94-96 Wigmore Street is a true joy. It enables me to reflect on where this year has taken me, who I’ve met along the way and how I was feeling at the time.
Can you tell me how you describe your practise what drives your work?
My work is primarily figurative, and most often tells stories of everyday people. I am looking to capture a moment in time that can be universally understood, whether that be a connection between two humans, a loss or a need to persevere. I hope that such stories are relatable, and by recreating them in paint the viewer can identify with the subject and form a connection to the work.
I also have a huge fascination for oil paint as a medium and I get excited by the multitude of unique marks and textures that organically arrive from mixing the pigment with different mediums. I am constantly searching for ways in which these forms can enhance the story of the subject.
When did you discover that you are an artist?
It had to be during secondary school. I took over this shed at my parents’ house, and much to their displeasure I coated the walls in spray paint and began to make artwork by experimenting with all kinds of materials. It became a place to escape and explore, and I’ve never looked back.
For Fortitude what was the key message you wanted to be at the front of this explosive body of painted works?
The word ‘fortitude’ means demonstrating courage in the face of adversity and/or pain. This is a concept which I strongly felt was present when I got to know the people who formed the paintings in this exhibition. The characters I was lucky enough to meet with in Kenya didn’t have much themselves, but their determination, generosity, and love in the face of hardships (advanced by the pandemic) was inspirational and I really wanted to get that across in the work. I believe too that due to their own plight with Covid 19 many members of the audience would be able to relate to this idea of tackling undesired circumstances with fortitude.
Was it liberating to be in Kenya to capture a “different” imagination of the pandemic?
Completely, Kenya was unfamiliar territory for me, and this experience gave me the opportunity to explore my understanding of a new environment, its people and culture through painting. This is something I will never forget and which I hope to do again in the future.
As an artist what has been the impact of the pandemic on your work?
I’ve found that the last two years has given me the space and time to explore new methods of producing paintings and these stretch beyond the traditional paint and canvas. I’ve been seeking ways to add sculptural elements to the work, as well as focusing more on the framing of each piece. I’ve become less fearful of making errors and I feel this makes the process more enjoyable.
Tell us about painting the Maasai boy Loikwa, sitting with his goat and his iPad case what is the message and the materials used?
This is an oil painting of Loikwa, who is 16 years old and a student who dreams of going to Harvard University to study medicine. His school was dismissed home for the 2020 lockdowns and transferred their learning online. He was given an iPad by Lewa, a wildlife and conservation park operating nearby, to keep up with his work but this proved a struggle due to the limited signal in his community. To overcome this, after herding his family’s livestock each day, Loikwa would climb a small mountain to access the signal at the top. He would sit here until the early hours every evening staying on track with his studies. His drive and energy are inspiring, and this is something that I wished to get across in the painting.
What is your biggest inspiration?
That’s a tough question as I am inspired by different avenues in life, but in this instance, I will talk about aesthetical inspirations which drive my practice. These come in the form of paintings which demonstrates an artist’s distinct and knowledgeable handling of paint. I often have intense emotional responses when I see working examples of this in person. My head is as close to the canvas as is allowed and I’m staring in actual wonder, contemplating how each brushstroke came about. I find myself longing to get back into the studio after such an experience.
I hope to continue to explore new cultures and unfamiliar lands, and to make my own sense of them through painting. When I am older, I would love to be able to reflect on my life, remembering who I was with and the emotions I was feeling at the time through the work I create.
All images copyright Pie Herring and respective galleries.