What inspired these amazing rainforest landscapes?
Well, I’ve always been really interested in the landscape, I’ve always been pulled towards it, and I was looking at landscape art and ways of making it more relevant for society today. So I went to Borneo two years ago, and it kind of hit home how endangered nature is in the world today. Only twenty percent of the rainforest there is protected and that’s it, the rest is allowed to be deforested and made into farms for palm oil. The main income for the people was dependant on the deforestation of their motherland, and the landscape was just farms as far as the eye could see of just these palm oil plantations. So, I did some research and I came to the conclusion that nothing is natural anymore, you can find tiny little bits of plastic in all the oceans, wherever you go, even the most remote part of the ocean you find tiny little bits of plastic, and that’s ridiculous how humans have made such a big imprint in such a small space of time.
Is that sense of unnaturalness where these amazing colours come from?
Yeah, heightening all the colours to kind of make it dystopian, and really harmonious, but also jarring. All the colours are quite, luminous in an acidic way. I’m influenced a lot by film and cinematography, and use of photographs when I paint. I take photos and edit them online, not online, I sound like my mum, but then I use these as a starting point and use a projector to get some of the marks. I wanted to find a new way of interpreting trees, with this whole idea of the dissolvement of the environment.
A lot of the paintings have these people in them in modern dress, who are they?
I think there’s something so magical about the landscape, because it’s always been there, I haven’t always been here. It’s so ethereal, it’s just like life you know? I know that sounds like such an asshole comment, but recently I went for a walk and just felt so emotional, because all the trees were so massive, and you could feel just how solid they are, how real. I wanted to put the people in modern clothes because landscape painting, and this whole idea of nature is so rooted the pastoral, ideas of what it should be. If you see a picture of a tree it could be from anytime, anywhere, because it’s always been there, but if you put someone in nike shorts wearing an ultramarine blue rucksack then you know that it’s a recent thing, gives it a time, gives it a place.
Are you going to keep travelling then?
I think I need to, and also really want to. I’d probably go back to Borneo, or another rainforest maybe. The thing is with this idea is that it has so much potential, and the way that I work, I could even go to somewhere like America and use the same process and make everything acid green, and paint deserts for a year.
Even though the whole message of your work is dystopian, and about the destruction of the environment, they’re still just so beautiful.
Well yeah, I hate ugly things! It is possible for something to make a statement with it also being pleasing to look at. I guess this is kind of my offering, to draw attention to the issue of global warming and the environment.
Interview GISELLE HYAM
Images courtesy of the Artist