Libby Haines \\ On self reflection, honesty & pivoting towards passion \\

Libby Haines \\ On self reflection, honesty & pivoting towards passion \\

This week we're speaking to Melbourne painter Libby Haines about the stuff of life: good art and good food.  

Centred on food and domestic interiors, Libby's oil paintings are rhythmic, somewhat impressionistic, and speak directly to the senses. 

Their feel might be associated with work by local food illustrator Loretta-Ryan Krawczyk, the pink bathroom interiors of Prudence Flint or the springtime late afternoon vibes of David Hockney. 

Lobster, olives, wine, sunny slices of lemon - it seems a lot like your paintings are aimed our tastebuds. How would you describe the thoughts and feelings you want your paintings to evoke?

Hunger? Nahhhh. I mean hunger is fine, but for me it's probably more about nostalgia and the concept of taking a moment in time and elevating it through painting.
I think now more  so than ever, people are dreaming of places they have been or want to go, and often their most special memories are around food. That's certainly the case for me, I love to cook and I love to eat, and I have so many joyous moments that are based around meals with people I love. So by painting these moments in time I  feel I can honour those memories and immortalise these ordinary but ultimately cherished objects.

Chef Anthony Bourdain once wrote - “That without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.”
With this in mind, do you think there's a similarity between painting and making food?

I love to cook and I love to paint so I can definitely see similarities between the two. With my cooking I love to try new recipes and ideas and once I have one I love I really lock onto it for a long time until I’m very much over it and then move on. I suppose I’m similar with painting, I get locked onto a concept colour or theme for a long time and paint that compulsively until I feel like it’s really reached it’s end for me. The way I am painting at the moment, releasing a few small paintings a week gives me the perfect chance to experiment and paint whatever I am feeling that day.

We can see your pattern making origins play out in your paintings - in your compositions, in the positioning of food or furniture. What's special to you about repetition?

I think with still life I like the concept of letting something ordinary take centre stage. By simplifying elements and exaggerating others it brings focus to my subject matter. When creating a pattern in a painting and using repetition, it further elevated these objects, adding a liveliness and movement to a painting, an element of fun. The subject takes on a star like status that you probably wouldn’t see in such uniformity in real life. I also like the idea that there are things going on outside of the painting… a shadow falling In or just half of an object showing, hinting that the painting is just a taste of a much bigger world outside the canvas.

Do you like to foreground pattern in other places too - like the clothes you wear, or music you listen to?
I wear a lot of black which is a contrast to then colourful paintings I create, but I do try to include the odd pop of colour or pattern where I can. I love music and love to paint to music, something that transports me to another time or place and really gets me in the zone.
What inspired such a sharp and focussed turn from making jewellery?
I studied Visual Arts at university many years ago. After university I felt unsure of what it was I wanted to paint and what I wanted to say as an artist. I went on to study Fashion and after a few years in various Production roles I started my jewellery label Lemon. I slogged at Lemon for 6 years. It was a real passion project and I ran every aspect of the business myself. I worked various jobs on the side to fund it and managed to have some success with it and sit alongside brands I have always admired. It brought me so much joy and gave me the opportunity to learn so much. However, it was hard. It always felt three steps forward two steps back, and once I had my two kids and still wasn't able to make the business profitable, it felt like I was taking precious time away to work on something that was never going to get there. It was such a hard decision to walk away, it felt like a failure in some ways but in other ways it was a huge relief. I have not regretted the decision once. Around the time I stopped doing Lemon, Melbourne went into its first lockdown. The last few years I had been wanting to paint again but I think I was a bit scared about starting. Lockdown provided me with the perfect storm...I wasn't able to work, I had my toddlers full time and my husband was still working long days every day in Construction so I was alone a lot. So whenever the kids were asleep I would paint. The first few paintings I did were so bad, it had been a while and I didn't know what to paint. But then, something clicked and soon I was painting compulsively. Shoving down any feelings of isolation and loneliness (because there was lots of that) and putting all my energy into painting. I became obsessed. I dreamt about painting and when I wasn't knee-deep in parenting, I was painting. It was a few months before I decided to share my work with anyone and I was absolutely terrified when I did. But lockdown kept going and I just kept painting and eventually I became less scared about letting people see my work.
I think all those years away from painting gave me perspective and when I started again there was no pressure. I was painting for me and whatever subject matter I wanted.
Libby wears our Souq Knit 
What does experimentation look and feel like for you? 
Experimentation is trying something even if I'm scared or I'm not sure it will work. More specifically its combining seemingly contrasting things and making them work within a painting. I hope that I keep pushing myself to experiment and try new things and not listen to my fear too much. 
You can browse through Libby's paintings and prints at The Lemon Art but make sure you have a snack plate with you.
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