We get a glimpse into the magnificent and many-splendoured studio of artist Lally Macbeth. Come with us for a gander and learn how an up-bringing in the wild and windy landscapes of Ireland, and an appetite for all things bordering on the bizarre has shaped her creative work. Enter Lady Macbeth…
1. We love your use of bright and bold colours in your work. Which artists/designers inspire you most?
I’ve always been a bit of a visual magpie; I’m constantly on the lookout for new artists and designers both contemporary and historical. At the moment I’m feeling really inspired by the work of the late 19th century photographer and painter Alfonse Van Besten he created beautiful dreamlike photographs- very painterly in their style. There are also people who I constantly refer back to: Collier Campbell, Matisse, Niki De Saint Phalle, Kim MacConnel, Sonia Delaunay – mainly artists / designers who use(d) lots of colour and pattern!
2. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I grew up in Southern Ireland. It’s such a beautiful landscape; windswept and wild. I constantly see its influence in my work – my interest in folklore particularly. Cornwall, where I live now, is similar in many ways, though the landscape is much softer. What do I miss most about Ireland? Mint crisp chocolate without a doubt!
3. What’s your creative routine?
I get up early and always begin the day with coffee and emails, or any writing I need to get done. I often do some meditation or yoga to help me get in sync with the day – it’s so important to feel centred. I’ll then spend the day researching, painting or taking photographs depending on what commissions or exhibitions I’m working towards. My work space is quite small so I’ll often work at the kitchen table if I need to spread out, or if the weather is good at a big table in my yard.
4. What was the last film you saw at the cinema, and what did you think?
I’m so terrible about going to the cinema- I adore film as a medium but there is rarely anything I want to see at the cinema. The last really great film I saw was Wes Andersons’ The Grand Budapest Hotel; I loved the costumes and set design, particularly Mendl’s patisserie. When I’m in London I always love to catch a film at the BFI; I love the work of Derek Jarman and Kenneth Anger. I’m also a big fan of 60s French cinema.
5. You’ve recently begun learning crochet, how are you finding it, do you have any tips for other beginners?
I’ve been so enjoying learning to crochet. I’ve always been a knitter and until recently crochet terrified me! I actually learnt very easily from a Youtube tutorial; it was great because I could rewind when I got stuck! What I’d say to a beginner is make sure you work out how to hold your wool and crochet hook correctly, it will help you so much in getting a good end result! It’s also useful to remember that like with knitting, the thickness and size of your hook will greatly affect your end result so make sure you follow the size that your pattern states.
6. When are you happiest?
I’m at my happiest when I’m starting a new series of paintings or photographs. I’m usually fired up with an idea or theme and I love those first few hours of capturing it.
7. What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
My work is very theatrical so I often turn to subjects that have a performative aspect. Folk customs and traditions are something that frequently inspire me – both the costumes and the dances and gestures.
I often also look to religious iconography; I love the posture of saints and icons and of course the ornate patterning and colouration. Conceptually my work explores the roles and experiences of women throughout history. I’m fond of very strong emotions- desire, pain, sorrow, love- really I don’t do anything by halves; I’m an out and out visual maximalist.
8. What 5 things can’t you live without?
Coffee, my camera, good food, a notebook and red lipstick
9. You’ve said you enjoy cooking and collect cookery books, what’s your signature dish?
I do have lots of cookery books; I tend to favour mid-century ones, as the photographs are wonderfully gaudy. I recently acquired Marguerite Patten’s Cookery in Colour, it’s a true delight – her dishes border on the bizarre, which I love! I’m also a big fan of the Surrealist Cook Book, though I’m not sure I’d subject any guests to the dishes!
I really love cooking, I’m constantly adding to my repertoire of recipes; a current favourite is Chermoula aubergine from Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem. It’s hard to choose one signature dish but something I make fairly frequently and really love is falafel with homemade cumin flatbreads and lots of fresh salad and of course Sriracha sauce. If I’m entertaining I’ll fire up my cob oven that I built in my garden and cook fresh pizzas.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
I like to think that it’ll be as a colourist with a taste for the surreal and bizarre elements of life.
What is your favourite sound?
My mocha espresso pot coming to the boil.
What is your motto?
More is more!
If you could invite any three people from history to dinner, who would you invite?
Sonia Delaunay, Laura Knight & Edward James
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be a linguist! I’ve never been very good at learning languages, I so admire those who can!
What is your greatest extravagance?
Clothes without any shadow of a doubt, I am always swayed by a beautiful bit of embroidery or a pattern on a garment!