Lucy Ash on sexuality, social injustice and creating art from pain
“Art comes from the unconscious, queerness is a lived experience, and we need more queer women making it”
LGBTQ+ artist, Lucy Ash, has had her work exhibited in the UK, Amsterdam and New York. Her piece, Iris 02, has recently been acquired by Southampton City Art Gallery, which has one of the finest collections of art in the south of England. Each and every piece of hers is colourful, meaningful and thought-provoking. We spoke to her about her experiences; influences, and hopes for the future.
DIVA: The colours of Iris 02 make heavy reference to the rainbow flag. Are you hoping to highlight and raise awareness for LGBT+ issues?
LUCY ASH: I think it’s essential to feel strongly and have an emotional connection to what you paint. If you identify with and understand the subject matter, then you stand a chance that your audience will be moved by the work. I was moved to bring to life what Iris and the rainbow means to me. It is part of LGBT identity, pride, inclusion, joy, and standing for equality. The circles in Iris 02 are specifically restricted to six colours to symbolise the rainbow flag.
Did Southampton and its LGBT community influence Iris 02?
Iris 02 was painted specifically for my one-woman show Echoes at Turner Sims, Southampton. In that sense, the city and its LGBT community were always in my mind. I like to paint about what I know and can feel and, in that sense, place is important. What Southampton City Art Gallery has done is given Iris 02 a platform to highlight and challenge social injustice, not only for the people of Southampton but for all the visitors it attracts globally.
How did the horrific, homophobic murder of your friend, Ian Baynham, in 2009 influence your work?
At the time of Ian’s horrific homophobic murder, most people would have thought that London was pretty safe territory for a gay man, when it obviously wasn’t. The shock of Ian’s murder landed in the heart of my home because his sister Jenny was living with me at the time. I found myself politicised. I had to find a way to express myself, which took me into new territory. I had woken up to a pain that I was compelled to voice. What I painted, and how I painted, had been changed forever.
Would you say that the representation of queer women within the art industry has changed or improved over the past few years?
Yes it’s definitely improved, but you can’t change hundreds of years of patriarchal art history overnight. Art comes from the unconscious, queerness is a lived experience, and we need more queer women making it. There is no doubt that my sexuality, whilst not the whole of me, is a crucial part.
Iris 02 was influenced by Blue Calm by jazz musician Trish Clowes. How important a role does jazz music play in your creative process?
Rhythm is one of the themes I work around. This has led me to make work that directly relates to jazz music. I’m interested in process and improvisation. When I first started to think about how to approach my exhibition Echoes, I played Trish Clowes album My Iris. Ultimately, I understood that it was the common themes we shared that were key. The paintings then developed quickly and came together very naturally.
If you could ask that your audience take one thing from Iris 02, amongst your other pieces, what would this be?
The primary goal of all my work is to make people feel, to touch their souls. It’s the outward form of inner experience. The message is optimistic and serious. We mustn’t forget the horror of the past, but we must look forward with hope, so we can create a better, more equal future.
Iris 02 is on display at Southampton City Art Gallery. Find out more at southamptoncityartgallery.com
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