Colette LaVette’s work is deeply informed by the natural world and mythology, taking a playful approach that engages with tradition through a contemporary painterly language - her organic forms emerge from expressionist mark making in compositions that recall Rococo and Renaissance masters.
For our Autumn 23 artwork, we wanted to immerse the viewer in our collaborator Julius Roberts’ world. Colette has created a painting alive with the characters we found on Julius’ farm, amid the ingredients of the fragrance - if you look closely you’ll spy his goats, his dog, carrots (complete with roots and flowers), irises, rock rose, geranium, fig leaves, violet leaves and an apple tree...
Colette LaVette paints to ‘get to know who we are as humans more.’ Inspired by her daughters, she is driven by a desire to connect with the people who came before us. For this she often turns to folklore and mythology, noting ‘how folklore bridges this gap between early ancestors and where we are now. It’s not quite religion but it’s a way of making sense of the world that’s still relevant today.’
She finds this sense of connection, too, in her use of natural paint pigments, which she mixes herself: ‘Using the natural pigment means the palette is really earthy - colours I think we are intuitively built to recognise, so whether it’s the danger of a red berry or there’s green on the trees which means the weather’s going to warm up… These things are within us, I think, and those colours can evoke certain feelings.’
There are practical advantages to mixing her own paints, too - Colette finds that she ‘goes through a vast amount of paint - my painting’s quite textured, quite large scale - so it means I have access to a lot more paint, whereas if I were using little tubes I would go through so many!’ It’s also fun, she says, and ‘quite intuitive once you get used to it.’ All the elements she uses are natural: ‘I’ll start with things like iron oxide or gold ochre, mix it with linseed oil, and then I use lavender oil to thin it.’
We asked Colette about the painting’s characters, which of course are based around the animals on Julius’ farm: ‘As a consumer or viewer of art, I really enjoy abstract expressionist works - but I find that some sort of biomorphic form in there really works as an invitation into the piece, a way to connect me a bit more. I think often when I’m painting or thinking about compositions, I’m thinking about how I would enjoy it as the viewer even before I’m painting it - so I guess I’m painting for myself before anyone else.’