HowTheLightGetsIn, the philosophy and music festival at Hay-on-Wye, offers an intellectually rigorous programme of innovative and inspirational debate, alongside live performances from world-class musicians. The term intellectually rigorous is a little frightening – is this going to be a Punchdrunk does philosophy type of affair? The programme is asking big questions that is for certain – have politics and big ideas become irreconcilably separated? What does the rise of the East mean for the West? How far can science really take us?
All this heavy debate is offset by an incredibly varied and decidedly “lighter” music programme featuring Emmy the Great, cult dance trailblazers Trilobytes, the new king and queen of electro-pop Kish Mauve and Mums Old Vinyl of Glade and Bestival fame.
Elsewhere, there’s a good sprinkling of art themed events including a twelve-hour marathon of image and sound from Stella Vine and The Chapman Family. We spoke with the artist about the work she will be producing at the festival and the importance of being prepared for such a challenge.
BR: Could you talk us through the work you will be producing at the festival?
SV: It will be a large backdrop/painting – four metres high and six metres wide. I’m making it for a band, The Chapman Family. I start painting at 10 o’clock in the morning, and they perform in front of it at 10 o’clock at night. I like what they have to say about the world, and the music they make is very much my cup of tea. People can pop by on the day to see how I am getting along, and then see some of the other brilliant things happening at the festival, and then come back in the evening to see the band.
I’m taking some images with me to refer to. I have a few subjects that I would like to paint at the moment so I’ll see which feels right on the day. The bands new EP is called Cruel Brittania, and they are doing a very beautiful rendition of Morrissey’s Everyday Is Like Sunday. A carpenter is making the boards/wall for me, that will be primed with gesso, and then I’ll be using acrylic paint.
BR: What is your relationship with The Chapman Family?
SV: I’m a fan. I came across Kingsley, the singer, on Twitter a few years ago. He is very witty on there, with lots to say, and a good painter. He’s as miserable and clever as Mark E. Smith. I was taken aback when I heard their music, it’s not often something lifts you up like that. I’ve only met him for a few minutes at a gig, we chat about art online now and then. I was sad they had to change their line-up last year, but it’s really strong now, and they’re up there with my favourite bands. I was thrilled they said I could paint a backdrop for them.
BR: You’re going to be painting for 12 hours straight. How have you prepared for this challenge?
SV: Ideally I’d be really fit and strong as I won’t have time to be tired, I should have got that sorted! My brain will be fine though. I’m very driven by the ideas, the “whys and the whats” and the colours, though I would never explain them to anyone, they are too precious, you can ridicule me, but I won’t let the ideas be vulnerable.
BR: Can you say what impelled you to start painting in your signature hyper-coloured style?
SV: It’s some kind of childlike force, I can’t seem to stop it, I appreciate that in many ways it’s not very attractive, and could be difficult to live with, repulsive even, but I’m on some kind of mission I can’t quite explain, well it would be difficult to explain.
BR: You’ve painted figures from Lily Cole to the young Beatrix Potter. How do you come to decide on whom to portray?
SV: It’s usually a mixture of things; something I visually connect with, and something I want to say within it. There are no obvious rules, only my own inner secret ones.
BR: Have you seen any particular exhibitions recently that have inspired you?
SV: Yes, I saw Joan Mitchell The Last Paintings at Hauser & Wirth in Piccadilly which was utterly brilliant – such freedom and intelligence, the stuff I’ve always dreamed of.
BR: What other projects have you got coming up in 2012?
SV: I’m painting a different backdrop at mima in Middlesbrough, with The Chapman Family, on 21st June, and then the rest of the year, I’ll potter about YHA places most likely, I like to keep on the move, see as much as I can, so I’ll be going back to making teeny things on the road.
Stella Vine’s marathon will take place on Friday 8 June starting at 10:00am. Make sure you get a ticket here.
HowTheLightGetsIn: The Philosophy and Music Festival at Hay, 31/05/2012 until 10/06/2012, Hay-on-Wye. www.howthelightgetsin.org
3. Diana branches
All images courtesy the artist
Text: Bethany Rex