Spotlight

Spotlight Figurative artist Harriet Gillett

Championed by Kristin Vicari
The Wick - ‘Deeper Understanding' by Harriet Gillett
Above  ‘Deeper Understanding’ by Harriet Gillett
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The Wick - Studio shot of Harriet Gillett, courtesy of Jack Lawson
Above  Studio shot of Harriet Gillett, courtesy of Jack Lawson
Interview
Harriet Gillett
Photography
Jack Lawson
08 February 2023
Interview
Harriet Gillett
Photography
Jack Lawson
08 February 2023
Photographer Kristin Vicari has an innate understanding of movement and appreciation of art that can only come from a watchful eye and years behind the viewfinder. When she’s not capturing the likes of Sophie Turner and Sir Ian McKellen or creating work for Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Glamour, you can find her at her recently opened interiors concept store in Margate. L’absurde brings together the worlds of interiors and art and also connected Kristin with artist Harriet Gillett.
Vicari says: “I first discovered Harriet during her City & Guilds MA show while searching for young, upcoming talent for my new interiors gallery in Margate. I instantly became obsessed by her alluring paintings. To me they are reminiscent of a fading dreamscape, the colours and shapes are like vapours slowly moving across the canvas. I bought her painting ‘It’s been so long since we slowed down/And waited for nothing at all’ to hang in my young son’s bedroom as I hope it will inspire him to dream beautiful dreams every day, and as a reminder to slow down and dream myself.”

Since graduating from City & Guilds of London Art School last year, Harriet Gillett has been exploring the boundary between individual experience and collective memory in her paintings and exhibitions at Soho Revue and Saatchi Gallery. Her combination of traditional subjects and contemporary materials enables her to playfully tread a line between multiple perspectives and time periods.

Gillett says: “I love stories. I get a kick out of meeting people, hearing about their lives, finding commonality, and I love how art, music, literature can help us find a way to relate to people despite differing experience. It is that sense of connection with others that inspires me, and in a way my work is very much an extension of that.

“My paintings are all based on drawings that I have made from life, so they are all rooted in places I have been, people I have come to know over the years. In my work, I am searching for a sense of timelessness, the age-old things which are innate within us, that will never go away and remain the same as digital and technology fads come and go.”

Vicari agrees: “Harriet has an otherworldly observational talent, which you can get totally lost in, especially in her large triptych work. There’s so much detail while somehow retaining a sense of calm and soft beauty. Being a photographer, I really appreciate her sense of being the quiet observer capturing a scene. It’s really exciting being able to watch Harriet come into her own and I am loving every new work she produces.”

You can also see Gillett’s newest creations at her shows at Roman Road and Brooke Benington in London before the end of February. Her group show ‘Here Is Now’ will follow at MAPA Fine Art in April.

About the champion

The Wick - Portarit of Kristin Vicari

No stranger to galleries herself, photographer Kristin Vicari’s work has been featured in the Turner Contemporary as well as publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Marie Claire. Self-taught, she was discovered whilst working as a retoucher at Dazed & Confused, before going on to shoot her first large campaign with Diesel. She opened her homeware and lifestyle store in Margate in 2022, where she lives with her partner, children and dog.

“Being a photographer, I really appreciate her sense of being the quiet observer capturing a scene.”

Place of Birth

East Yorkshire, England.

Education

A BA in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh (2017), and a Graduate Diploma (2020) and then MA in Fine Art from City & Guilds of London Art School (2022).

Awards, Accolades

I was shortlisted for The Ingram Prize in 2020 and won the Federation of British Artists mentorship prize in 2021.

Current exhibitions

‘When I was walking on the edge of a teacup’ until February 17 at Roman Road, London.
‘The Picture’ at Brooke Benington, London, running until February 25, and ‘Daytime Dreaming’ at ARC, Padstow.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

Gosh, there are so many people who have been there for me along the way. I have close friends who are a constant support day to day, but I am continually blown away by the generosity of people who have given me their time or support, or taken a chance on me when they really didn’t know me or need to.

I feel a deep sense of kinship with the visual expression of artists like Munch, Ken Kiff, and Celia Paul. Leonard Cohen and Kate Bush find words for what I want to paint. And Captain Jack Sparrow inspires me for everything else.

Advice

There really is no right way to do things and don’t listen to people who say differently. If people like your work, they will like it whether or not you went to art school, you paint dogs on the side etc. There are no shortcuts to getting good at anything. Persistence is key and if you try for long enough, things will happen, but don’t wait for them to come to you. I was applying for years before I got into anything. Making friends in the same world as you is essential – being a professional artist is tricky to navigate, and my friends have been my lifeline. Also, be a bit of a chancer. As my dad says, ‘shy lads get nowt’.

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