4SEE Artist Profile 16 – Louise Thomas
Painter Louise Thomas who runs the Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin describes how determination and passion helped her find her happy medium.
Berlin-based painter Louise Thomas opens up about her experience as a young artist grappling with the art market and how to make a living as an artist. Persevering through the ups and downs of the economy and surviving the Great Recession, she came out even stronger with new ideas and a renewed sense of community.
Her positivity is a much-needed salve and shows that happiness comes from doing what you love and sharing it with others—life lessons that are profoundly relevant to all of us facing another moment of great upheaval today.
Name Louise Thomas
Medium Painting / film
Based in Berlin
Recent/upcoming exhibition (projects)
Residence Inn @ Hjellegjerde gallery Berlin
Find more at www.louisethomas.art
Interview from May 2020
Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?
I realised when I was 18 years old when I used oil paint for the first time to copy a John Singer Sargent painting, Madame X. I produced an accurate copy of the painting and knew I should continue since it came so easily to me. I continued to study biology, however I soon focused my intention fully by the age of 23 during my time at Kingston making films and afterwards at Falmouth School of Art starting to paint.
Do you find the art world (creative world) cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?
Something in between. The artworld is a mirror that reflects the pure horror of the global neo-capitalist state we find ourselves in today. The monopoly of the blue-chip galleries and the desperate fight of so many artists squabbling over contacts, commissions and sales and then getting sucked up into galleries that at the end of the day do not provide a steady fair monthly wage or quality of life. This current state of affairs has been liquidised and catalysed in a crucible in the age of COVID: speeding us forward into more unstable times as the global economic system melts. I have found myself at a happy medium in the last few years and I can tell you a little bit about it.
When I graduated from art school in 2007, I was selected for an exhibition and prize with the Saatchi gallery and following with a show in New York and representation in London, lots of paintings were sold for lots of money to people I didn’t really like too much. After the financial crash and following recession, BISCHOFF/WEISS, the gallery representing me, went under. I felt abandoned with the cost of my paintings inflated to reflect the economic situation. However, over the last 7 years, I have become comfortable in my position, running a private art school, Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin and my own art practice. Based in Berlin, the school provides a rich, diverse community of artists alongside which I continue to produce paintings and work towards shows, networking and dealing with galleries and selling paintings at reasonable prices to people I respect. It feels great!
What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
Last year I produced two large-scale oil paintings for a museum in Iceland. Afterwards, I received recognition from the president of Iceland for the paintings now in their permanent collection. The paintings were part of a series of commissioned artworks chronicling a historic medieval Icelandic saga text…. Besides that I am so proud of my art school and all the students!
Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?
Art is always relevant to the person making it whether it is relevant or important to society at large is something else. For me, if an artwork reflects a sentiment or current theme clearly and poetically I am impressed.
I have personally been concerned with the same themes for 15 years now. I enjoy and respect Jeremy Deller’s relevant political working-class pieces as much as I enjoy, for example, Matthew Barney’s indulgently opulent cremaster works.
What topics have got you inspired at the moment?
Water, geometry, sex, the old testament and minerals.
What is it like to be currently living and working in Berlin?
Berlin is dirty, I speak German, but I am originally from London my English accent is strong. My fiancé from Hamburg gets along with it somehow.
What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?
I am working with the stone Lapis Lazuli, producing a new series ‘Great Women of the Bible’. I will host an online preview from my studio. Alongside that I am restructuring Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin with the team for online content as opposed to real-time courses in the school.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your artwork and at what scale?