Lying Near Water: Alice Neave explores memories and grief in her jigsawed together paintings

South East London-based artist Alice Neave is currently exhibiting at the Blue Shop Gallery with her third solo show Lying Near Water. In her paintings made from a patchwork of materials, she explores loss, grief and limbo through the concept of place.

Running until 22 October, Lying Near Water features artworks made up of delicate washes of paint inspired by Alice's experiences of living in South-East France, Pembrokeshire and the capital itself. Deliberately ambiguous and with an emphasis on mark-making, these unique artworks also feature other pieces sewn into the canvas and paper.

Speaking to Creative Boom, Alice reveals why the works in Lying Near Water are informed by her years spent growing up in the countryside. "This has always been where I find my peace," she says. "Prone to daydreaming and often in awe of the natural world, I find any green space – particularly forests, woods, moss and rivers – a sacred environment ripe for creativity; simply put, it is where I feel at home."

The countryside also sounds like it has a restorative quality for Alice. She felt burnt out and jaded after living in London for ten years, so she left for France seven years ago. "It was moving to the Poitou Charente that helped re-energise me and enabled me to see things differently," she adds. "I found my confidence with paint, learnt to observe the landscape and the light, absorb it all and out it came into paintings."

Texture, as well as paint, play an important part in Lying Near Water. The featured artworks include a patchwork of surfaces, many of which are made from previously existing work. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm right to cut it up!" Alice admits. "But ultimately, I approach the beginnings of making a piece with absolutely no preciousness."

Confident in the knowledge that the process will lead the way and teach her something on the journey, Alice knows that artwork can be recycled and may end up communicating something else in future work. "I keep lots of sections of paintings stored in the studio, so when I am stuck on something, I bring them out and start trying to jigsaw them together to give me an idea, or, sometimes, they miraculously turn into a painting that works," she says.

As well as her experiences in the countryside, Alice's work is also inspired by tantric paintings and Persian miniatures. "My late father, who is such a powerful driving force in my studio, gave me a book a few years before he died called 'Tantra song' Tantric paintings from Rajasthan," she says. "These anonymous spiritual drawings are incredibly contemporary, but some are centuries old.

"Using brightly coloured pigments on paper, which obviously now looks very aged and fragile, they are incredibly moving and emotional works, managing to communicate so much with circles, pyramids, arrows and simple symbols, as well as incredible colour combinations. They are extremely elegant but painterly and playful at the same time. They have been an incredible resource for me in the studio."

Persian miniatures worked with similar colour palettes that have also faded. It's this living, ageing quality of the paintings and the human stories they tell within their decorative border framing that appealed to Alice. "You can see elements of these influences peppered throughout my work. The Tantric paintings, in particular, resonate with me as they communicate something simply, sensitively, in a painterly way, and you can see the life and journey they've inhabited."

Tying the exhibition together thematically are the themes of memory and grief. And while Alice suggests that her own life experience provides a foundation for these concepts, she is keen for these paintings to be seen as something bigger still.

"I once heard an art critic say something along the lines of: 'A good artist draws on their life experience for creativity, but a great artist moves beyond that until they cannot see themselves in the work; the work has its own voice and is speaking back to you, teaching you, it is no longer a vehicle or conduit for the artist.'

"Ultimately, our life experiences creep into the studio; it is the artist's job to use those experiences as the ground layer or building blocks for what is hopefully a life of work! Memory and grief are my building blocks, and painting has helped me a lot personally; it is wonderful when my paintings resonate and connect others as we all go through the same losses and experiences eventually."

This directness and resonance chimes with Alice's mantra for painting, that it is the "language to get to the crux of the matter." In her works, including the painting in Lying Near Water, she hopes to communicate and touch on those ineffable feelings you can't describe but instinctively recognise when you see them.

"How they hit home to each and every person that responds to them is incredibly different," she concludes. "I've put everything into them."

Learn more about Lying Near Water on the Blue Shop Gallery website.


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