One tends to experience life in an episodic series of endless and ever-changing moments; adjustments are always happening in the world as we strive to remain connected. Yet our consciousness bears subtleties of negligence for what we believe is beauty, particularly items we disregard.
Drawing inspiration from the apathy of deserted objects, British contemporary artist Nettie Wakefield reveals their hidden beauty in stunning pencilled detail.
Examining the vestige of life lived, Wakefield depicts her findings in everyday items such as crushed beer cans, crinkled cigarette packets and empty sweet wrappers. Their unique imprint and textures, a reflection of intimate human affinity induced by emanated hues, immortalise in the abyss of whitespace. That transforms these underappreciated objects into graphite works of art.
My work is finding beauty in everyday subjects
Wakefield’s practice ranges from still life to portraits and sculpture.Her exceptional technique emphasises texture, watercolour, shading and shape. Yet is widely known for her reverse portraits, a collection of works that prompt a sense of intrigue, forming an imaginary boundary between the artist and viewer.
We managed to catch up with Wakefield to learn more about her practice and what’s next for her as an artist.
Q: Hi Nettie, can you please introduce yourself to those who don’t know you?
A: I am Nettie Wakefield! Hi! I am an artist working predominantly with pencil. Having said that, I do work in watercolour, colour pencils and bronze. I live in North London, my studio is in Waterloo, and my educational background is in History of art and then a Masters in Drawing. I’ve been showing and making since early 2013 and have been lucky enough to exhibit around the UK, LA, New York and Australia and shortlisted for a couple of prizes along the way.
Q: Can you tell us about your practice and what you are trying to achieve with your work?
A: Upon reflection, I suppose the common denominator in my work is finding beauty in everyday subjects. There are exceptions, such as my anatomical drawings of mythical creatures. They are always quite detailed and suspended in negative space. I’m interested in shadows, contrast and light. I have no interest in drawing a subject that is just one tone. I suppose that’s why hair appeals to me so much. Drawing shiny hair is very satisfying for me.
Q: Can we speak about crucial pieces in your work? Your acclaimed ‘Reverse Portraits’ a very intriguing series of portraits, Brandy the Blow-up Doll and your Trash series?
A: My reverse portraits have remained the only consistent part of my practice, and I’ve stayed pretty faithful to pencil. However, having said that, 5 years ago, I was in LA making a life-size polished bronze sculpture of a semi- deflated blow-up doll. When I was doing my residency at Banksy’s Dismaland, I met a couple of LA artists who were also present for the whole six weeks (I was just there on weekends), and we formed a bond. In the rain.
When I was in LA the following January for a group show called ‘Expiration date’ (where I drew a semi-deflated Brandy for the first time), we reconnected, and I got to visit their amazing studios and see all the wonderful work they created. One of them works specifically in bronze. At this stage, Brandy was just a pencil drawing, but I could suddenly visualise her crumpled self as a polished bronze statue – and that was it. I started preparing the cast, and nine months later, she became 3D.
I ended up with two identical sculptures, so I wanted to create this dichotomy of the beauty of the sculpture in itself as an art piece and its dark symbolism. Brandy 1 is hung on the wall where viewers can touch it with white cotton gloves whereas Brandy 2 is situated in a diorama on a sofa surrounded by accoutrements showing evidence of our mystery man after use: a laptop, recently removed suit with Paul Smith underwear, half-eaten pizza, tissues and Brandy’s original box.
The trash series was actually a series I made back in 2014, which really is to highlight the beauty in the ordinary using found objects. It’s mostly (but not all) in colour, which is unusual for me and consists of empty crushed and discarded sweet wrappers, beer cans, chewing gum, cigarette packs and playing cards.
Q: You had a fascinating career so far exhibiting at Banksy’s bemusement park, ‘Dismaland.’, also working with Kodak many others?
A: It was an absolute honour to show at Banksy’s Dismaland. I hope that I will be experiencing something similar again in my career as it was truly incredible! Being involved with Jigsaw x Kodak for International Women’s Day, celebrating women in the creative industries was lovely. It was during a time when women were just beginning to be celebrated much more.
Q: Your showing as part of the S&P Gallery Wrapped x Cancer Research 16 December, what canvisitors expect to experience?
A:The show S&P Gallery Wrapped has been put together to celebrate the festive season and bring together a diverse and young curation to the street of South Kensington. The show will be presenting 6 artists with different practises from photography to drawing to painting to spray paint. The group show will be presenting contemporary artworks with both original pieces and limited-edition prints.
Parts of the funds raised through the sales of the exhibition will be donated to Cancer Research UK to fund further development to find cures for patients affected by cancer. I will be attending the event as well as other artists, and we are planning to have a fun night with drinks and art and live music! (I hear there is a harpist).
Q: What next for you as an artist?
A: I have produced a clothing collaboration with a brand called POAN (Peoples of All Nations) for SS22. I cannot wait for these to come out. This includes all my ‘trash’ watercolours on linen shirts for men and women, cropped jackets, a little bralette and a playsuit.
It has a real 90s Versace aesthetic. I have a couple of group shows in 2022 at Soho Revue curated by India Rose James. One of them is CHOOSE LOVE around Valentines Day and the other with Art on a postcard, a charity raising money to combat Hep C, so both for a brilliant cause. I am also working on a collection with Maddox Gallery, and I’ve heard a print or two from my series at Jealous Gallery have gone to the new Hilton Hotel in Stratford.