Molly Rose Butt is originally from Suffolk and has been living and working in London for several years — and will be starting at the Turps painting program in a couple of months! She chats about recent influences from a residency in Ireland, the challenges of networking in the arts community, and her love of travel. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I have been living in London for the past nine years, having grown up in Suffolk on the East coast of England. I studied Fine Art, completing my BA at Kingston University in 2013 and going on to do an MFA at Wimbledon College of Art, graduating in 2016. I’ve been renting a studio space at the Koppel Project Hive in Holborn for the past two years, working various part-time jobs alongside my studio practice; I enjoy having a bit of variety and everyday is somewhat different but it is the full days of studio time that I look forward to the most. I live with my cat on my 21ft narrowboat and having a studio space that I can escape to makes my lack of living space more bearable.
I make paintings mostly, but I also spend a lot of time drawing and occasionally dip into printmaking and sculpture, when it feels right. In September I will be starting the studio programme at Turps Art School. I am so looking forward to it.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I always loved art above all other subjects at school and creativity was definitely supported in my family. I guess it took a bit of a back seat during my high-school years whilst I was figuring stuff out and having fun but I decided to follow my brother to London to do an art foundation and from there I realised that I wanted to pursue painting. Before that I was unsure where my interests within art lay and I couldn’t really grasp the idea of being an artist, but on my BA in particular the tutors really inspired me to make art and to want to be an artist. I remember that moving to London was my first proper introduction to seeing the work of artists in galleries. I vaguely recall trips to the Tate galleries as a teenager, but although I enjoyed making art at that point it didn’t feel like a career option and I didn’t have much awareness of contemporary artists- I was more interested in fashion!
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I’m interested in the relationships that happen within the work, between the colours and the brushstrokes and the various motifs. I also incorporate 3D pieces into my work, creating installations that open up conversations between the paintings and the sculptures. These lead onto other pieces as I find new combinations between the different forms. My surroundings provide ideas for motifs, colour schemes and compositions, and I love travelling to new places and seeing different sights. I consider myself to be an abstract painter though the work is underpinned by an idea of a landscape, whether that be fictional or based loosely upon a place that I’ve been to. The landscape is often the starting point, becoming forgotten once the piece comes into its own and negotiations within the painted scene take over.
What is your process like?
My process varies from piece to piece. Sometimes I begin with a photograph of a landscape to draw from, abstracting it until I have a scene that I want to work from. But I find that translating pencil marks into brush strokes never works out as planned so the painting is incredibly different from the drawing. Other times I work first in pastels to sketch out ideas and plot colour combinations. Recently I have been making watercolour paintings on watercolour paper, which I then go over in pastels. I love how the watercolour paints do unexpected things on the paper that I can then edit and manipulate with the bold pigment of the pastels. There’s also something nice about not being able to mix the colours for the pastel sketches- I am limited by what pastels I own, which forces me to make certain choices. Then when I begin with oil paints I can choose whether I want to remove this restriction because with oils I can mix whatever colour I want and make it as thick, as thin, as glossy or as matte as I desire.
I’ve found that I’m more comfortable working from a sketch, having an idea mapped out first, but sometimes I just feel like painting and want to go for it without having any idea of how it might turn out. I also use found objects as starting points, turning them into sculptures and repeating their shapes within the 2D works, amassing a load of images of the same shapes in different formations, which are then displayed alongside the sculptures. I like rearranging them in different constellations- this helps me plan my next steps. I often paint over things if I leave them hanging around for too long. Or cut them up, mix them about and stitch them back together again. I don’t mind recycling things in this way; in a sense the process is never-ending and making collages out of old pieces helps to reinvigorate my ideas.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My brother is a great mentor to me. Our work is completely different but we have similar influences and interests and I enjoy our conversations a lot. I think that the best advice I’ve picked up along the way is to keep making. Sometimes it’s good to plan but oftentimes things don’t turn out as expected and I’ve kind of learnt not to have expectations about how the work and stuff might turn out. It’s been a random and brilliant journey so far and there’s still so much exploring and experimenting that I want to do. When I make sure that I have enough time to make work, that’s when things fall into place. It’s taken me this long to feel confident in myself and in what I’m doing so I’m looking forward to the next phase and the development within my work and within me that is yet to come. But I’m also aware that for all the good days in the studio there are an equal amount of days spent banging my head against the wall and feeling like it’s impossible to keep pursuing this intangible thing. I know that the road is going to be a bit long and slow but I’m here to enjoy. Sometimes riding my bike is the best solution.
What is your studio like?
Very messy, but colourful. It’s nice and bright and I have a wonderful view looking out over Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon road. I try but I’m not a tidy person. It looks like chaos but it works for me because everything has its place and I am somewhat organised despite the mess. Happy accidents are welcome- luckily the kind of work I make allows me to not be precious about getting paint marks in the wrong places. My desk is for sketching with pastels and my paints and brushes are generally on the floor. Luckily the space next to me has been vacant for a while so I have a separate area for stretcher making. I read and draw when I’m at home and try to keep my studio days for painting and the things that require a reliable internet connection.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
For me the challenge is that things take unexpected turns, but when something doesn’t work out it always seems that new doorways appear. Really I’m just grateful that I get to paint- I find it bizarre that I’m allowed to be self-employed and manage my own time, choose if I want to paint or draw, go to an exhibition or chat about art with friends. I’m not able to spend all my time in the studio but everyone has to deal with the work-life balance and I am thankful for my freedom. I had no idea what would happen after art school so there was a lot of finding my way in the dark but people have been really supportive.
I am incredibly shy, which makes the social side of being an artist challenging for me and I get frustrated with myself- I’m genuinely terrified of going to private views and introducing myself to other artists! Actually I’ve got a lot better at it, and being a part of a community of artists helps hugely. There are exhibitions, critiques and other events that take place within the studio building and these have been really beneficial.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Yellow floating windows
What are you working on right now?
I did a residency in Ireland in March and it gave me lots of new ideas that I’m still working with. I was in Kerry and the landscape there was breathtaking. I thought it would be very grey at that time of year and that I would spend all my time inside making work, but it was so beautiful and I went exploring everyday, gathering snippets to work with later on. I borrowed my mum’s car to drive there and the roads were completely empty- it was great! I needed some way of taking photos whilst I was driving along because I would have been stopping every mile but I’ve got snapshots of landscapes in my mind and I’m pastiching them together with watercolours, pastels, oil paints. Maybe it will become a series of landscape paintings or one big patch-work landscape, somewhat abstracted with bits recurring. I’m taking part in a couple of residencies in August and then in September I want to start at Turps with fresh ideas and blank canvases, so I’m sort of tying up loose ends at the moment and beginning to prepare for the next bit.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much for this platform, it’s really great to get to see and read about the work of emerging artists from all around the world.