Beyond the Streets on Paper: 10 Questions with Nettie Wakefield
As BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER is set to come to a close this weekend in the Hamptons, we caught their talk with London-based Nettie Wakefield. She has been working on paper primarily for years, known for her pencil works and the reverse portrait series. The works in the new exhibition BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER, which are so intricate hairstyles and attention to detail, have a sense of mystery of the subject is peering away at an unknown place and person. Her work is perfect for these times: slow, mindful and an examination of how it is we look at the world.
Has the past year impacted or influenced your work in any way? How so?
A bit of both but much more making. I started off doing some satirical ‘Corona Collages’, then some large (A1) social distancing drawings which depict solitary figures floating in space walking their dogs or sitting aimlessly on benches. I also created some smaller drawings of a person (me) doing yoga or a man (my partner) lying in the park. Ive also done a very detailed portrait of my whippet, Simon (using all available models). A reverse portrait of my fiancé and most recently a self portrait - as I’ve never done one! Its actually been quite a special time as I’ve been able to use my practise in a different way. I was only working for myself last year and drawing whatever i feel like doing which is a very freeing feeling.
How has the mood of your most recent work changed or shifted from past work we’ve seen?
I’ve actually done a major shift recently and collaborated with a clothing label called POAN (peoples of all nations) and made a very colorful print called ‘Ocean trash’. There’s an environmental message in there and it’s got a real 80s Versace vibe. Having said that, I’ll always stay true to pencil.
What would you say is the medium that has defined your work as an artist?
100% pencil. I suppose my pencil reverse portraits are what have defined me (so far!). A few are showing in the BTS show.
When was the last time you produced works on paper?
What does working on paper look like for you?
Pencil drawing, usually very detailed and isolated in white space. Mostly pencil but also sometimes watercolor. When I have a l little time I want to go back to color painting for a little while. I feel I need color right now to offset all the bleakness of covid!
It seems like in the past year artists everywhere quite literally went back to the “drawing board.” What was that experience like for you as an artist or an individual?
It might seem a little odd or strange, or maybe even inappropriate considering how tragic it was for many, but I actually quite miss the slow and regular routine of lockdown. I would wake up early, work at home on my drawings until around 2pm and then take the dog for a two hour walk and afterwards I would plan and cook dinner. I think perhaps I’m missing it more than usual at the moment because I’m in in 7 shows this summer, I am missing the slow pace of life.
As for my practice, it didn’t change much. I just worked at home instead of in my studio and my pieces are not generally very large so it was relatively easy for me.
What does urgency mean to you?
That is an interesting question. Right now it means panic! But if you asked me on a different day I might say something different, haha.
Has your relationship with time changed at all in regards to creating?
Currently, yes. I've taken some other jobs at the moment and Im missing that time for creativity very much. I don’t have many studio days.
What are some new hobbies or skills you cultivated in the past year that you have continued to keep up?
I made some drawing videos for the instagram account @ISOLATIONARTSCHOOL and also some with Cass Art and I learnt how to edit them… but I didn’t learn how to speak fluent Mandarin or anything.
Any playlists or podcasts you listened to while making your works on paper?
You know what, I watch movies or series. I love it. Can't be anything with subtitles otherwise I can’t look at my page! I find it easier when I'm multitasking for some reason. I’ve begun watching 3rd season of Master of None, Mayer of Easttown and I really enjoyed Mae Martin’s Feel Good.
BEYOND THE STREETS ON PAPER is on view at the Southampton Arts Center in Southampton, New York through August 28, 2021