London based, Christabel MacGreevy is an interdisciplinary artist concerned with archetypes, communication and memory, explored through the interplay of the personal and universal. Her body of work as an illustrator, and designer, as well as fine artist has received critical acclaim celebrating her established diverse art practice that incorporates paint, ceramics, sculpture, and textiles, with a strong focus on drawing that ties these strands together.
Her drawings were most recently displayed at Alex Eagle Studio in Soho with her ceramic sculptures showcased at Tristan Hoare Gallery earlier this year. We sat down with the artist of the moment to hear about her and the city she lives in gives her work daily inspiration.
You trained at Central St Martins in Soho – what was your experience learning every day in such a formidable institution with the backdrop of the hustle and bustle of Soho?
It was so much fun. A large part of the reason that I applied to CSM was because I loved the idea of being in Soho everyday – that sounded so exciting and perfect to me when I was still trapped at school. Saint Martins was on Charing Cross Road and Foyle’s bookstore was next door. Whenever I had a quiet moment and needed some inspiration I would wander round Foyles and look at everything on display. I loved being walking distance from the British Museum, the National Gallery and Chinatown. There were more vintage shops in the area back then. And we were all regulars at Trisha’s, the unmarked bar on Greek Street.
What was the inspiration for your latest show Sexing the Cherry?
My most recent London exhibition from earlier this year was inspired in part by the novel Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson, which considers women’s roles, prominence, or lack of prominence in society within historical fiction. The novel focuses on the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale after their reluctant marriages and recounts their murderous revenge on their husbands, up-ending the original fable’s happy-ever-after. I made ceramic sculptures looking at botanical drawings of plants in mediaeval spell books, as well as figurative vessels which depicted a character moving through time and space.
Which artist has had the greatest influence on your career?
I couldn’t pinpoint a singular artist, but Henri Matisse has definitely been a formative one. One of my earliest memories connected to art is seeing Matisse’s Snail at the Tate Gallery as a child. The way he created the snail out of blocks of colour stuck with me. The strength of his lines and his use of colour I come back to again and again.
What were your favourite pieces at Frieze, London?
I enjoyed Public Gallery’s booth showing work by Adam Farah-Saad, who created an ode to London and experiences related to cruising through his multimedia works. One of the sculptures was a replica of the communal hand washing fountain from the men’s toilets at Wood Green shopping centre. The synthetic sickly smell of the Black Grape soda continuously flowing from its taps created an evocative environment.
What advice would you give to a rising star artist?
Be prolific – make as much as you can, as often as you can. Make first, edit after. Don’t censor yourself. And don’t listen to all the opinions, because you will never please everyone.
What are your favourite galleries/rooms in London?
I love the program at the Camden Arts Centre where I saw the Martin Wong show earlier this year. I also love the ICA, the recent Penny Goring, Moki Cherry and R.I.P. Germain exhibitions were all fab in their different ways. I appreciate the eclecticism of the Zabludowicz collection, and Dorich House Museum is well worth making a trip to Richmond for.
Walk us through your dream day in Soho.
I’d start the day with an extremely strong shot of coffee from Algerian Coffee Stores on Old Compton Street. I’d take it to go and head down to Berwick Street to look in all the haberdasheries. Borovicks is my favourite. Then I’d wander down to Sadie Coles on Kingly Street and see what’s on, before popping into Liberty to peruse the jewellery and cosmetic counters. For lunch I’d meet a friend and sit at the counter at Koya and order their juicy udon noodles. After lunch I’d lie on a bench in Soho Square followed by tea and cake at Maison Bertaux, an institution that has been there for 140 years. I’d end the day at the French House, where I have had so many good times, eating and drinking in the noisy warmth.
What excites you at the moment?
I was recently commissioned to work on a residential interiors project for a townhouse in Highbury which I absolutely loved and was a very exciting new challenge to take on. I am also working on a collection of lamps, ceramic bases with silk shades that I am painting top to bottom. I can’t wait to have the prototypes ready.