Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Sarah Cutler I CWC Director I 01 July 21.
It isn't news to us that women are often multi-talented with numerous strings to their metaphorical bow, and Bobbie Seagroatt is definitely one of those women. Artist, musician, clothes designer, teacher, it seems there is no end to this busy lady's skill set. We caught up with Bobbie and got to chat about her passion for designing clothes, the musical influences behind her own song-writing and why the female form features so frequently in her paintings.
CWC: Hi Bobbie, thanks for chatting with us today. The first thing we have to talk about – you finished up an MA in Fine Art Painting at UAL Camberwell during the height of the pandemic. What was it like?
Bobbie: Difficult, sad, disappointing, lonely! You could be in touch with your cohort and your brilliant tutors online, but when the lecture/seminar/ group crit finished, there you were, on your own again…
It was a huge achievement for me (I thought!) to even be accepted onto the course, so for it to be ‘rudely interrupted’ (as my course leader described it) after only 6 months, was pretty awful.
Obviously, we weren’t able to have a final show, so possibilities of meeting gallerists, collectors, not to mention inviting friends and family just didn’t happen. Solidarity with the year group was harder through times of stress, i.e. writing the final 4000 word essay, but having even one student friend you could rant to, as I did, made it more bearable! But we all got through, finishing in October last year. Nothing has been perfect for so many others…and I am luckier than a lot of my cohort - at least I am still in the UK, whereas a lot of them were from China or Korea and they just had to return home. Part of the reason for doing it was to make connections of all types, and that opportunity was greatly curtailed.
CWC: And what are your plans for your art career now you’ve completed the course?
Bobbie: I’m currently working on getting into more ‘real life’ exhibitions, and making some more connections with other galleries. To continue developing my work. I have a few different ‘threads’ I’d like to expand upon. For example, a series of very small paintings, as a counterpoint to my BIG ones. Selling one or two paintings would also be nice!
I have been part of one real life joint exhibition, thanks to Darl-e and the Bear gallery in Woodstock, last December, and have been part of various other online exhibitions. But as my work is fairly big scale, I think it needs to be seen in person. I also think that an artwork is much more likely to make an emotional connection if it’s seen in person. Images on a screen don’t really do it.
CWC: So tell us about your work. Your paintings and drawings are very powerful and expressive. Where do you think that comes from – are you influenced by any artists in particular or is it all about your own feelings?
Bobbie: I suppose I’m quite a determined kind of person, ambitious (even at my age!), and maybe that energy comes out in the work. I love working with a free style, and a big brush or charcoal, although I have done a lot of very careful, restrained graphic artwork in the past. But I admire freely executed work - it’s what I like to look at at the moment, so I’m working on that. To get emotion into the work is hard, but it’s what I aim for. It’s a bit like free improv music, or stand up comedy - totally scary to me, but I feel I have to push myself to see what happens. Re techniques - I love the combination of hard edged images combined with free brushstrokes and rubbing off / scrubbing / blending in a painting.
I admire artists who have the ability (in my mind) to communicate exuberance, strength and passion in their work - Abstract Expressionist painters such as Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Franz Klein…also Piet Mondrian for his fresh graphic style, and the rhythm and movement in the work.
I guess for the depiction of dramatic hi contrast lighting and texture of fabrics which is something I like to incorporate in the work, I admire 1950s fashion photographer John French (1907 - 66), photograp Annie Leibovitz (b.1949), American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917 - 2009), and art photographer Carla van de Puttelaar (b.1967) who has made fabulous photographs capturing the fine textures clothing and fabric on women in the art world, emulating the calm beauty of Dutch 17th century painters in her series, now a book ‘Artfully Dressed: Women in the Art World’ (2017)
Dance was an important part of my young life (I did ballet from age 3), and my Mama took me to musicals in the the West End of London. She herself would regale me with stories of what she’d seen - ‘West Side Story’ being one that made a huge impression on her, and consequently on me. We had the vinyl albums in the house which were played incessantly along with Frank Sinatra.
Other influences are choreographers Jerome Robbins (‘West Side Story’), for his fresh, expressive style for Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece of a score, and Pina Bausch with her company Tanztheater Wuppertal. I love her fabulous experimental staging ideas, dancers of varied ages, and her use of designer dresses as costumes.
Also film maker Wim Wenders, the director of ‘Pina’, (2011), the biography of Pina Bausch, (which incorporates so many things I love - dance, the film’s amazing soundtrack, and couture clothing ‘costumes’), and director Alexander Sukurov for his fabulous film ‘Russian Ark’ (2002), where the costumes and the staging of the dances, combined with filming techniques, are so impressive. These moving images stick in my mind, and I think the accompanying music cements the experience.'
CWC: The figures of women feature a lot in your work - is there a conscious message behind this that you could tell us about?
Bobbie: Lasting (over) concern with my own physical appearance (!), combined with a love of what clothing and fabrics can do for the female form - my first degree was in Fashion and Textiles. How you present yourself and how you dress can communicate so much, rightly or wrongly…I think all women are, or have been made to feel imperfect in their appearance through the images presented in fashion and film. I guess I’m just communicating solidarity with other women if they do feel the same. I can’t be the only one who feels like that…
CWC: You are a busy lady aren’t you! Tell us about your wedding dress design business and the classes you teach. Have you always been interested in designing clothes?
Bobbie: Yes, I was making my own clothes really from the age of 10, and started seriously when I was about 13/14. I was always inspired by the fabric as to what style would look best for that particular fabric. I started with commercial patterns but soon tried making them into what design I wanted. When I was little, my favourite thing in the toy cupboard was a piece of brilliant orange satin fabric!
The Atelier bespoke wedding dress business is on the back burner for now - the painting has taken a more prominent place, but the teaching classes - pattern cutting, fitting and sewing, carry on alongside!
CWC: You also love music and song-writing and have a new album out. What kinds of music genres are you influenced by and what are your songs about? Do you ever play live?
Bobbie: I guess funk, jazz, EDM, glitch and trap are the main threads. The songs for ‘Yearn’ (see links below) started off as a part of falling in love with my husband. We had to wait quite a long time until we could be together, so….
The ‘Mortal Tongues’ songs had a lot of my artwork ideas in them as I was furiously working on the MA at that time! Two of the songs were written specially for an online music festival organised by a friend, Steve Krakow based in Chicago, and the other two are radically reimagined versions of two ‘Comus’ songs, as our friend is a massive 60s/70s music fan and that includes Comus! We have payed live a lot, and have both been in various bands before we met, but don’t have anything currently in the offing. It’s more of a recording project now.
CWC: Tell us a little about yourself, what do you like to do when you’re not working?
Bobbie: Going to galleries / gigs /concerts / going to places I’ve never been to before (city or country) / taking photos / walking / cycling / gardening / seeing friends… all the usual stuff!
CWC: Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?
Bobbie: Plan (when possible!) to visit several friends we have abroad- America and Eastern Europe.
You can find out more about Bobbie and her work at the following links.
Weddings and Classes: http://www.bobbiesroom.co.uk/