An Interview with the British Painter Amy Hilton in her Paris studio.
The Paris-based curator and painter Amy Hilton and I met at her studio by Barbes-Rochechouart, which she shares with the painter Laurent Godard. On a wintry weekend in Paris we drank herbal tea and she explained how she uses her art to explore the deeper questions in life. After studying in London, she decided to change her landscape and settled in Chamonix. Inspire by the natural elements, she painted abstract mountainscapes and spent her summers painting seascapes on the coast.
She was then drawn to Paris when she became the assistant to the painter Laurent Godard who was known for creating the utopian village Flauterville, which aligned with Joseph Beuys’s philosophy that, “every man is an artist.” They were given the keys to the abandoned art deco Piscine Molitor in the 16th arrondissement where they lived, painted and Amy curated his exhibitions, which went as far as Shanghai, Morocco and beyond.
Amy then decided to focus on her own artwork and chanced upon two halves of a limestone in Il-de-Re, which were pure and beautiful. She took the limestone home to consider how she could use it conceptually to combine her passion for philosophy and art. Painting and drawing the stone she saw it as a whole in two parts and after experimenting with watercolours awoke to find they had dried into a delicate composition. This work was influenced by fellow stone-collector Roger Callois’s La Lecture des Pierres amongst other literature. She also draws from the evocative work of Mark Rothko as well as Lee Ufan who also uses stones and incorporates philosophy in his work.
Her exquisite studies of stones have evolved into a series of black ink constellations, which are radically minimal, but also have a great depth and meaning. She talked about the importance of the ‘constellation’ that exists between humans as we wander in and out of each other’s lives and are all linked and how her work captures this. Last year she exhibited with Galerie Martin Kudlek at the Amsterdam Drawing 2015 art fair and has plans for a series of exhibitions in the coming months.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?
Whether I realized it or not at the time (back in 2008), moving to the French Alps from London after my studies at Goldsmiths was key. The next moment was when I fell upon a small advertisement 'artiste recherche assistant/e, 10ieme arrondissement, Paris' and got accepted as the assistant. This wholly changed the course of my creative destiny.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
The Constellation series. It reminds me that I am a small part of a greater whole; that everything is interconnected and interdependent.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I am interested in how art can question philosophical notions. There is a great amount of thought and reflection that goes into my work before anything is even executed. And, when finally something is transposed onto canvas, there is a lot of spontaneity involved in the physical process. Whether I am painting or drawing, thinking or reading, writing or finding things, I try to maintain a systematic approach: wholeness, relationships and patterns.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
The Stone Age.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
A rare pearl called Odile. She is so profoundly beautiful, it’s out of my scope of 140 characters to even begin to describe her.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
Without hesitation, Letters to A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I almost wish I could live my life inside that book.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Finding stones. Or, rather, letting stones find me.
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
Phèdre from Jean Racine’s Phèdre. I wrote my university dissertation on this play. Ideally, I would like to sit and read to her what I wrote about her. I would be curious to see if I get a reaction in the midst of all of her woe.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
I feel the current ‘Screen Age’ we are living in, despite attempting to better connect us, paradoxically disconnects us from certain truths.
What do you wish every child were taught?
That mistakes are there to be made. To stay curious. Curiousity and attention are vitality. They connect us to others.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
Not yet. I don’t pose too many questions about my career, I tend to let the wind blow me naturally in different directions. I worked as a journalist, graphic designer, translator, waitress, curator (to name but a few), before I started exhibiting my own artwork. I think everything builds on what comes before. The more building blocks we have, and the more diverse the shapes and colours, the more interesting our ‘careers’ will become.
What is your favourite art gallery and why?
A recent visit to Cologne in Germany led to a discovery of the Kolomba Museum, designed by Peter Zumthor. Stone ruins, a secret garden, a dense archeological site; it was one of the most elegant spaces, housing one of the most exquisite collections. The whole visit (from viewing the artworks to walking through the space) became in itself a spiritual experience. Extraordinary.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Max Richter. His musical compositions have had a profound effect on me. I have a project to propose to him involving translating some of my drawings into music.
What is your daily routine when working?
I do try to dedicate a part of every day to working in the studio. As a lot of my work requires solitude and silence, I am able to find that in there. When I’m not painting or drawing, I can work equally efficiently in a crowded café.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
Four years ago, I was in Ile de Re, an island just off the west coast of France. I found a broken stone on the beach that then became an integral part of my work. The chance event of finding that stone might have meant absolutely nothing to someone else, but for me, it symbolized absolutely everything. That very stone later served as a main piece in my first solo exhibition at Galerie Fatiha Selam.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
‘disengnia Antonio disegnia Antonio / disegnia e non perdere tempo’ (draw Antonio draw Antonio / draw and don’t waste time) – Michaelangelo wrote these words to his boy apprentice on some studies of the Virgin and Child. I would urge anyone to follow that.
Do you find that Paris’s culture inspires or influences your art?
Paris is still full of the brilliance of past visitors, enriched by the passage of all the artists of the world. The sky is opaline. Each stone has a history. Whether or not I move away to discover new cultures, Paris will always remain a muse.
Why do you love what you do?
There is definitely something very meditative and tranquil in the painting technique I have adopted. Like Mark Rothko’s huge black canvases, the whole process tends to draw me in, calm me down and enable me to draw my thoughts together. I enjoy the flexibility and spontaneity of what I do. I will be eternally grateful for that lucky star above my head.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com