• Liffey Speller

    South Africa

    Liffey Speller
    • Artist Statement
      • I was born in Surrey, England and moved to South Africa with my family in 1999. I attended school in Johannesburg and received my Bachelor of Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, majoring in painting, in 2011.I am currently practicing as an artist in the Johannesburg area.

        I am a mixed media artist, producing work in a variety of different mediums. I like to experiment with materials and favour a combination of painting and various material works. I have worked with a variety of mediums including salt, gunpowder, ink, satin and feathers to name a few. I enjoy the tactile nature of these materials as well as the tendency for them to move or work in unpredictable manners. This chance element is something I relish both working with and manipulating.

        While the mediums I chose to work in may vary the central ideas remain the same, each of my works has some kind of psychological resonance. The subject may vary greatly in the works I make but in all of them there lies an inherent sadness.

        I generally veer towards a more muted palette, consisting mainly of tonal blacks, whites and greys. I am interested in light and dark, in both their physical forms and their psychological connotations.

        My work represents a journey, or more specifically my journey, navigating through these metaphorical planes of light and dark.
    • Biography
      • Selected Exhibitions:

        Michaelis Graduate Show, Cape Town

    • Interview
      • Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
        I draw inspiration from a variety of styles and mediums so the artists I like are quite varied in their styles. I really like the work of artists such as Judith Mason, Virginia MacKenny, Penny Siopis, Diana Victor, William Kentridge, Sanell Aggenbach, Marlene Dumas, Tracey Rose and Willem Boshoff. Each one has developed a body of work that is so recognizable and I really admire what each of them has both achieved and created throughout their careers.
        I’m also really inspired by the work of newer artists such as Jake Aikman and Nina Liebenberg as well as many of my peers who studied with me. There’s some amazing new work being produced in South Africa at the moment and to be part of this group of emerging artists is really exciting.

        Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
        I’m more attracted to and influenced by contemporary art so I can’t say that I have any preferences when it comes to older South African art. Rather than a specific artist I think that work being produced during the apartheid era is a time in South African art that I most admire. I appreciate that artists had the guts to use their talents, their voice and their unique platform to speak out against something that they knew to be wrong. That kind of courage is something that I think should be greatly respected and is something that is lacking to a certain extent in art production at present.

        Which exhibition that you have visited made the greatest impact on you and why?
        I was lucky enough to get to visit the Venice Bienalle in 2011. Everything about it was so inspiring. Apart from the absolutely amazing location, just seeing that much work by such a variety of artists was really special.  It was really great to see such a variety of contemporary art from all over the world and to be exposed to such a host of different styles and artists’ voices.
        The exhibition changed how I thought about art and really made a great impact on my art making process.

        Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
        I draw inspiration from a wide variety of places. It can range from something as small as a phrase in a book to a masterpiece by Goya. Anything that leaves an impact on me is important in my process of coming up with ideas.
        I read a lot, draw inspiration from movies, gather information from the internet and gain valuable ideas from other artists work.

        Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?
        I’m a habitual note-taker. I always carry a sketchbook around with me and write down anything that catches my interest. I’ve got endless books full of phrases, quotes, lines from movies, headlines in newspapers, names of artists, anything and everything really. I feel like if something makes me feel something I need to keep a record of it and by seeing it again it can hopefully trigger those same experiences and help with thinking up something that makes me feel the same way. My theory is: when in doubt, write it down or sketch it out. Even if it’s only a vague scribble it could be the foundation for something really meaningful.

        What do you like most about being an artist?
        It’s very hard to just pick one thing. There’s something indescribably satisfying about creating something to a level that you are proud of. Even better is when others appreciate your work as well but being able to create something that means something to you is a fantastic experience. Art-making for me is a therapeutic process and I need it in my life to keep myself stable and happy, without it I really don’t know what I would do.
        Being able to share things of either beauty or importance with other people is a great privilege so I would say that being able to connect with others purely through an external object you’ve created is one of the best things about being an artist. I’m not the best at conveying feelings through words and art is a way of communicating for me that I would never be able to live without.

        How do you handle bad days when you experience artist's block?
        Chocolate helps a lot. Sometimes it helps just to take a step back and take a break, other times going through old notebooks can help spark something new.
        If I get stuck I experiment and fiddle until something falls into place. Most of my work, or at least the work I’m the most satisfied with, has come into being through a process of being completely stuck then having to find a solution, frustrating as that can be. Trying to break down a wall, even a metaphorical one, can only make you stronger.

        What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
        I’m really proud of our Graduate Show that was held at the end of 2011. Having work bought there was a great feeling, but just putting the show together and seeing it in completion was the most satisfying part. Everyone worked really hard throughout the course of the year and seeing the art of people I really cared about not only up but being both appreciated and bought was fantastic. Having work purchased by reputable collectors is also something that I’m both proud and excited about.

        Do you feel that you want to make a difference to the world or in people's lives? If yes, how?
        I would really like to be able to, if only by having the work that I make touch someone in some way. The work I’ve been making has been very personal and I hope that some of the issues I’ve been addressing can resonate with viewers. If I can’t make a difference through my art making I’d like to be able to contribute in another way, through volunteer work or other ventures.

        What are your plans for the coming year?
        This year I’m hoping to make as much art as possible. I feel like I’ve just started to make the art that I really want to and am very excited to carry on evolving and developing as an artist. Some peers from art school and myself are trying to organise a group show which would be fantastic. Other than that I’m just planning on creating a strong body of work and starting to establish a name for myself in the art world.

  • quest painting liffey speller LIFFEY SPELLER
    Painting / 92 x 122 cm
  • unloose mixed media painting liffey speller
    Mixed Media Painting / 125 x 170 cm
  • fury painting liffey speller
    Painting / 127 x 101 cm
  • snow falls and the white wind blows oil painting liffey speller
    Snow Falls And The White Wind Blows
    Oil Painting / 67 x 52 cm
  • dance beneath the diamond sky mixed media painting liffey speller
    Dance Beneath The Diamond Sky
    Mixed Media Painting / 76 x 91 cm
  • paused but never halted watercolour painting liffey speller
    Paused But Never Halted
    Watercolour Painting / 19 x 19 cm