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The City as an Inspiration - Samantha Redfern in an Interview

  • Samantha Redfern - Garden City, 2019
April 28, 2020
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

A British contemporary artist living in Singapore, Samantha Redfern is an abstract expressionist artist that draws inspiration from her surroundings. Using a combination of gestural, impulsive movements, layering and detailed work, she creates her own abstract take on the buildings and the lush, tropical greenery of Singapore.

Surrounded by the artworks of her father growing up, Redfern developed a passion for art from an early age. After several professional experiences, it wasn’t until she moved to Singapore that she turned her passion into a career. Exploring her style and ideas, she moved through a floral phase, a geometric phase, and an abstract phase.

More recently, the artist found inspiration in cityscapes, exploring architecture and its effect on the psyche. Shifting her focus on skylines, her works reveal an interplay between the built environment and the natural environment.

We had a chat with Samantha Redfern to find out more about her practice. In an exclusive Widewalls interview, the artist talks about the influence her life in Singapore had on her work, the subject of cityscapes, her working process, and much more.

Samantha Redfern’s process
Samantha Redfern’s process

Turning Art Into a Profession

Widewalls: You’ve had many professional experiences before turning to art full-time. How did you decide to turn art into a career?

Samantha Redfern: Having been a SAHM (stay at home mum) for many years raising my offspring, I have always been mindful that I want to have a career after SAHM life. However, I was in a sales environment before where the hours were long and a lot of travel was involved.

Having enjoyed a different (but by no means easier life) I found myself in a position to do what I have always wanted to do. Be a full-time professional artist. I have always been driven and I never do things by halves. I threw myself into motherhood (indoor playgrounds, toddler groups, 24/7 CBeebies on the television) and knew my art could only be a sideline because, quite frankly, I was too exhausted. But now with all three at school and some help at home I have time to dedicate to painting.

Widewalls: You currently live in Singapore. How has the city influenced your work?

SR: Considering my life previously revolved around my kids and dogs, not surprisingly my art used to be based on these things. I didn’t have the freedom I do now I am living in Singapore. Now I can go out, socialise, explore. I am much happier as a person here and the freedom I have is reflected in my art.

I use vibrant, happy colours in my cityscapes which are skylines decorated in a foliage reef of green botanicals and vibrant exotic florals.

I love the city. I love it in the day time when the sky is the most beautiful blue and you cannot fail to just feel so pleased to be alive, and I love it in the evening when the neon lights and the happy people are out enjoying the abundant nightlife.

Samantha Redfern - Lilac City, 2020, The City That Never Sleeps - 2019
Left: Samantha Redfern – Lilac City, 2020 / Right: Samantha Redfern – The City That Never Sleeps – 2019

Cityscapes Series

Widewalls: Your latest series titled “Cityscapes” was launched on April 20th. Could you tell us something about this body of work?

SR: My cityscapes were born from a progression from abstract florals into a body of work I called “organic geometric”, where I started using both shapes from the natural world with squares and rectangles. The results were very abstract paintings which looked like towns or cities immersed in flowers. From these beginnings, my more recognisable cityscapes came to fruition.

I realised I was producing work that was both exciting and enjoyable to create, but also that I had found a unique style of my own.

Widewalls: You have been interested in the subject for a few years now. What drew you to it in the first place and how has it evolved?

SR: I love architecture. My father gave me a very old SLR camera. I used it throughout my whole degree.

I loved the whole process of developing my own film and photographs in the darkroom. I studied in the City of Bath which is a beautiful city, great for taking architectural photographs or scenes of people on the busy streets.

I then got myself a digital Canon Rebel in New York and that opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

I used to use reference photos for my city paintings. Now I like to create them from my mind’s eye. Seeing which buildings and colours it wants to put down on canvas.

Samantha Redfern - Burning Sky - 2020
Samantha Redfern – Burning Sky, 2020

The Working Process

Widewalls: How do you see the role of Instagram in the world of contemporary art?

SR: Social media is a powerful tool for artists to use. We can reach far wider with the platform than we had the capacity to do before. I have contacts from all over the world which I could not have made without Instagram.

People can get to know me as a person which helps form a connection to both myself and my work. They can watch you grow and develop and be part of your journey. Every like or comment helps that artist get more exposure.

It’s not all plain sailing and instant fame though. It’s hard work. Many hours have to be put into building a following. It’s also very hard to stand out and get exposure. With so many artists trying to put their work out there your post easily gets lost in a sea of hashtags.

Widewalls: Could you tell us something about your working process?

SR: My process begins by getting an urge to paint. If I have the urge I go with it. If I’m not in the mood I don’t flow as well.

I love seeing a big white canvas. I’ll look at it for a while, is it square (one of my favourite canvas shapes) or is it rectangular? If so, will I do portrait or landscape?

Decision made, I then decide on the colour of the sky. As an abstract artist, I don’t stick to conventional colours. My collection has dark blue, light blue, orange and vibrant red skies. Once the sky is determined I start with the trees and botanics.

My first brush strokes are a burst of sweeping expression. Later come the smaller brushes and the more precise details.

Samantha Redfern - City Of Fortune, 2020
Samantha Redfern – City Of Fortune, 2020

Future Plans and Projects

Widewalls: Who are the artists who influenced your work along the way and whose work do you appreciate now?

SR: I think I have probably been influenced in some way by every artist I’ve ever happened upon. Even if it’s not obvious.

I remember learning about Picasso and Van Gogh early on at school. Later I was influenced by Monet and Georgia O’Keefe.

At uni we were introduced to Sam Taylor Wood, Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin. I also greatly admired Ansel Adams.

Moving forward, I love Abstract expressionism. I also appreciate a lot of Australian artists – Joan Blond being a particular motivator for me. She is wonderfully successful and so personable too. People want to own her work, not just because it’s beautiful but because they love her.

Widewalls: What’s next for you?

SR: I am on the cusp on my career. This is what I see as a career. I want to be 70 years old and still doing what I love as a profession.

After the Covid-19 situation improves, I will be traveling to many art shows as well as exhibiting here in Singapore. I am particularly excited about exhibiting in Miami in December.

I am very fortunate to be working with Addicted Art Gallery. We took our time to get to know each other and to see if we would be a good fit professionally.

I am excited to see what the partnership brings. When you get two highly motivated and passionate entities together real magic can happen.

Featured image: Samantha Redfern – Garden City, 2019. All images courtesy of Addicted Art Gallery.