We are so happy to have our site back online and even happier to bring you our first “new site” monthly feature. A fantastic artist, supreme lover of cats and mixed media scientist, Liffey Joy!
Liffey creates works with anything from red wine to Epsom Salts and has found her way into so many galleries and homes in and around the world. We are very proud to host this artist and look forward to all the amazing works she will keep producing!
Where are you based? Why there?
I’m based in Cape Town, over near Muizenberg. I am actually from the UK originally, but have lived here for most of my life. I stayed in Johannesburg for a while and eventually came down to Cape Town to study and just completely fell in love with this place! I’ve moved around a bit since then, but as the saying goes “all roads lead to Rome”…or in this case, back to Cape Town. There’s something about being close to the sea and mountains that’s addictive to the soul…
What started you in your career of art? What sparked your interest in creating art?
There’s no ‘one thing’ I can remember where I thought “I like this”, it’s just sort of always been there. Art has always been my go to. Nothing to do? Make some art. Feeling anxious? Make some more art. Had a good day? Make even more art. It is something I have genuinely always done.
Some of my earliest memories are of me drawing and painting so I think it was just a natural progression from childhood play to full time career. Making art just feels right for me.
It’s been the one constant throughout my life and has always been the end goal to make art on a full-time basis but until a few years ago it was more of a hobby, as unfortunately day jobs got in the way. After a massive shock two years ago where my Mum passed away very suddenly, it gave me the push to be brave and really follow my dream. Life’s too short to spend it doing something that doesn’t make you feel happy if you are privileged enough to have the opportunity to try make something you love work. It’s what she wanted for me and by pursuing my dream I’m fulfilling it for the both of us, it’s a way to honour her.
What inspires you to create art?
I tend to draw inspiration from all over the place, there’s not one specific source. It could be watching a documentary and seeing how a bird builds its nest on an obscure island in the Pacific or taking a walk through the park and seeing moss growing on a rock. Experiences trigger ideas so I like to get out into the world and see as much as possible. On the whole I do find nature incredibly inspiring.
I like to look at other artists’ work a lot as well. Seeing people create, even if it’s not your own personal style, helps to fuel the mind. That and researching obscure facts also sparks my creativity and sense of wonder. I’m drawn to things that are a little bit odd.
How would you describe your art?
Ever-changing! I work quite experimentally so my style keeps on developing, but I think I’ve reached a point now where I’ve found what works for me.
I work in mostly black and white. A bit of colour sneaks in once in a while, but on the whole everything is pretty monochromatic. Mostly I create abstract and abstracted mixed media paintings. I work with chemicals, crystals and gold pigment so there’s sort of that alchemical element of experimentation and play in an effort to speed up natural processes, or at least manipulate them to my means. This links in to the themes of growth and decay that crop up in most pieces.
This play has resulted in creating techniques using materials like Epsom salts, potassium permanganate and wine that break down pigments to create these fluid, organic marks. I also like to work with materials like this alongside paint and ink as they’re unpredictable and working to control that chaos, to manipulate it to do what you want, is really fun.
I think at its heart my work is equally about the importance of the materials themselves as well as natural and the cyclic process of life and death. It sounds quite macabre, but I like to think they’re more hopeful and highlight the magic of life in all its forms as well as making sense of the unpredictable.
Who are some of your favorite artists (local and/or international)?
The list fluctuates but my top 5 would be Cornelia Parker, Cai Guo-Qiang, Olafur Eliasson, Katie Paterson and Robert Montgomery. They are all masters of their chosen materials or styles and create the kind of pieces I aspire to make myself one day.
What has been your best memory/experience related to your art?
That’s actually quite a hard question to answer, I want to say having my work featured on the cover of a magazine or when I had my first piece up in a show but it’s actually far less significant in terms of career goals.
A good few years ago I made an artwork that involved making about 400 poppies by hand and installing them on a beach out near Boulders Beach. The plan was to film them being washed over by waves and play the video in super slow motion in the gallery space.
The whole process of making them was really interactive as my Mum helped me cut out the thousands of petals, that alone makes it special.
After making the poppies my brother helped me install them on this tiny beach. I’d scouted it out and thought it was really secluded as every time I’d been there to check it had been empty but on this day a bus load of German tourists had stumbled across it. We were about five minutes into filming and about twenty of them walked onto this tiny beach and got very excited about what was happening. So the two of us, using our very rudimentary German and a lot of hand signals, proceeded to try to keep them out of shot for the next hour. In the end, after understanding we were trying to film, they sat down and just watched the waves lap over the poppies so it sort of became a performance as well as a video and installation.
Everything about that artwork was magical and it’s a memory I really cherish.
Any plans/changes/exhibitions/projects/anything exciting on the horizon for the near future?
There are so many ideas that I want to get started on, but I will have to get there one by one. I’m working on a couple of really interesting collaborations with a few different companies at the moment where my work is getting translated into wallpaper, rugs and clothes which is incredibly exciting. It’s a direction I’ve wanted to try for a while but doing these things as an individual is nearly impossible because of production costs so having the opportunity to work with these companies is amazing.
Other than that I’m working on getting my own range of textiles going and am hoping to start a small jewellery range as well in the near future alongside making more paintings (and hopefully more massive ones, those are great fun to paint). Maybe some sculptures and installations will sneak in as well in the near future. I have a show at the end of the year where I want to include some more experimental pieces.
I’m also currently running a little side project where I make small artworks and leave them in various places around Cape Town for people to find. Sometimes art and the art world can been a bit elitist and exclusionary (and, let’s be honest, our financial climate is in such a place that people can afford necessities but not extras each month) so this way it sort of opens up art to people that might not be in a position to buy, feel intimidated by galleries or have just never considered it as an interest before. It’s also just meant to make people smile, everyone likes a gift! I want to grow that a bit, do more art drops and go further afield with where they get left.
What is your favourite medium/art form both to create and view/collect?
My absolute favourite artworks are installations. There’s something so appealing to me about a work that takes up a whole space and creates a fully immersive experience. Those would be the dream pieces to make. If space allowed I would make so many installation pieces.
Other than that I love creating abstract paintings, again the larger the better. There’s something about abstract work that for me at least creates a strong emotional response (that’s not to say I don’t like realistic painting, but I like tapping into that primal feeling that abstract art requires, it’s less about achieving a desired result and more about just going with how you feel when you paint).
What other interests/hobbies do you have?
It’s a terrible answer but art takes up about 90% of my time. Other than that I love a good fantasy novel, the more pages the better.
I’m also getting into climbing at the moment. For someone whose sum total of doing exercise for their entire life is doing yoga a few times a week it’s a bit of a shock to the system but it’s actually really fun, and we’re spoilt in Cape Town for places to climb.
My other major passion is plants, in particular succulents. We’ve recently moved into a house with a garden so I can now really indulge my love of gardening. The house is (not so) slowly being taken over my canvases and plants. I’ve started hunting for and collecting rare succulents and am propagating them to be able to both fill the garden and sell them in pots I’m painting myself. Being able to combine plants and art is the dream and is something I’m really enjoying at the moment. So if you need pretty pots and unusual plants you know where to come!
What do you do in your spare time to relax and unwind?
At my core I’m a very simple creature but am completely incapable of not doing anything. Going for a long drive out of the city to somewhere quiet and remote is the most relaxing thing I can think of and is probably the most switched off I’ll get.
If I’m at home it’s having a cuddle with the cats, reading a good book, having a potter in the garden or making something. I’m not good at not being busy so there are loads of half-finished projects around the house, so long as my hands are busy I’m happy.
Amazing stuff and if you want to check out all the works we have available from Liffey, be sure to check out her online artist profile – these works go really fast!
Do you own some of her works? Or have you seen some of it around? Drop us a comment or better yet, share some pics of your work in its new home or even just share this post on your social media channels and spread the word of the amazing talent right here on our shores!