Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sidekick Books Artist Profile: Lois Cordelia

Continuing our artist profile series, today I'm talking to the fantastic Lois Cordelia, whose magical scalpel-cut silhouettes dance across the cover, and between the pages, of the forthcoming Birdbook I.

Born 1982 in Ipswich, Lois is a self-taught artist. Since graduating from Edinburgh University in 2006 with an honours degree in Arabic, she has renewed her focus on the visual arts through exhibiting in a series of solo and joint shows in the UK and Germany. Her work spans a diverse range of media and styles: silhouette paper-cuts, portraits in acrylics and pastels, wildlife art, still-lifes, Arabic calligraphic compositions, and sculpture. Her latest exhibition, Black Gold, has been extended till 10 March 2011 at the Open The Gate Cafe, Dalston.

Sidekick Books: Who or what would you say influences your work?

Lois Cordelia:
Ideally, artwork is an endlessly dynamic process of flow, in which everything influences and is influenced by everything else. I welcome positive influences from every source, whether visual, musical, poetical or mystical. Beauty inspires and speaks to me wherever I find it.

The creative process is a birthing process: a process of conception, gestation and bringing to birth. I am influenced and inspired by things I see or hear around me. These are the seeds that are sown in my imagination. The embryo grows, develops and evolves organically and takes on a life of its own, nourished by daily experience of sights, sounds and ideas. Only at the final stage (the 'birth') does the artwork manifest in physical form, though even during birth it continues to evolve.

As the poet Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Work is love made visible.” I avoid creating anything at all if I am not in a loving, positive, open frame of mind, because the resulting artwork will inevitably be affected by my emotional state. The flow of creativity often gives me a feeling of a natural 'high', and so my emotional response gathers its own momentum towards something approaching ecstasy that carries me through the tremendous struggle of 'birth'.

A couple of quotations by other artists that I particularly relate to are the following:

“I find in all the artists that I admire most a disturbing element, a distortion, giving evidence of a struggle. ... In great art, this conflict is hidden, it is unresolved. All that is bursting with energy is disturbing – not perfect.”

(Henry Moore)

“My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.”
(Michael Jackson)

SKB: Does the subject matter you use vary wildly, or do you find yourself returning to certain motifs and ideas?

LC: I strive constantly to reach beyond the mundane surface of things. Seeing a person, an animal, or a tree, for example, I try to capture something of the soul or consciousness that animates it. My inspiration comes from anything that evokes dance, movement and metamorphosis: nature, human figures, animals, trees, running water, the seasons, dance, music, rhythm, poetry, light and dark, and so my subject matter varies widely.

From intricate paper silhouettes, painstakingly cut by hand using a surgical scalpel, to fast and furiously painted portraits and landscapes in brilliant, dramatic colours, my artwork also spans a vast spectrum between precision and free-flowing energy, which has often caused visitors to my exhibitions to remark that the works they see could have been created by several different artists.

I tend always towards fluidity, allowing forms to evolve and metamorphose, one into another. Spirit is eternally changing and shape-shifting, and requires form to be flexible; if form is too rigid, it fossilizes and breaks. I particularly like to explore the expressive potential of Arabic and other cursive scripts to evoke this same principle, allowing the words to evoke further layers of poetic symbolism.

What convinced you to take part in the Sidekick Books projects?

I've worked at intervals over the last decade with the Polish artist and illustrator of children's books Jan Pienkowski (co-author of the 'Meg and Mog' series, pioneer of the pop-up book genre, via Haunted House and other titles, and creator of many beautiful volumes of silhouette illustrations). Beyond this natural affinity and link with book illustration, I freely confess that I was persuaded to take part in the Sidekick Books project by the personal charisma and charm of our good friend the eminent alchemist Dr Fulminare...

Do you prefer to work alone or collaborate, and why? If the latter, what would your dream collaboration involve?

The artistic profession can be an intensely lonely one. Being fiercely independent by nature, I generally prefer to work alone in the privacy of my room, immersing myself in my favourite music or poetry recordings, chosen to fit with whatever theme I am currently exploring.

Conversely, I would be the first to acknowledge my eternal debt to Jan Pienkowski (as mentioned above), from whom I have learned most about the organic process and philosophy of creativity and whom I will always consider my 'guru'. Whenever possible, I also love to perform live art demonstrations, painting portraits and landscapes or creating paper-cut works in public, as the dynamics of a live audience add an invaluable layer of zest and spontaneity.

What would you say is the most common misconception about art that you've encountered?

The most clichéd misconception I've encountered is that professional artists (whether painters, poets or musicians) are naive and blissful "thinkers of beautiful thoughts", untroubled by reality. Frequently I am asked by people: So when are you going to get a real job? It is not a path for the faint-hearted. Yet it is consoling and humbling to find oneself in the company of some of the greatest artists in history, who have all too often worked themselves to pieces and burned themselves out at a relatively young age, in passionate pursuit of their vision, only to be “discovered”, recognised and appreciated a century after they died!


See more of Lois and her splendid scalpel at

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