November 2, 2016

Laurie Nouchka is an artist who creates drawings and prints that are inspired by urban surroundings and cities around the world. Combining bold colours and geometric shapes, Laurie’s work has featured in exhibitions in both London and Barcelona. We catch up with her about her work and inspirations…

UO: What is your background in art and design?

I’ve always painted. My father is a painter and one of my earliest memories is sitting for him. He would put a paintbrush in my hand to keep me still. It has been a constant in my life, but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I pursued it full time. I studied Art Direction at university and then for many years I went on to be a Youth Arts Producer at the Roundhouse in London. I felt compelled to support young creatives and get them started in life. After eight brilliant years there it became clear that I had lots of creative ambitions myself and so I left to pursue these.

UO: What initially drew you to drawing landmarks and iconic buildings?

I find all my energy and inspiration in the city. The countryside is a place of retreat, silence and stillness for me whereas the city is where I create. Someone recently said to me that I will bring a lot of happiness to people’s lives through the vibrancy of my work which was a wonderful thing to hear. Really all I am doing is translating what I see. Gaudi was the catalyst for the interest in drawing architecture. I tend now to draw two things; buildings and bodies.

When I’m not drawing buildings I love to draw the figure from life. I see the two as linked. I’m interested in form, structure and colour and using these themes as expressions of movement. As far as the buildings I choose to draw for the collections; it’s less about what they mean for me and more about what they mean to us. I was interested in the iconic buildings initially because undoubtedly they have a form which is pleasing to the masses and that interests me in its own way. Now I’m working on collections which include the iconic but also the lesser known but equally beautiful.

UO: Talk us through your creative process.

More often than not it starts with pens and my sketchbook and either in the studio if it’s figurative or on the street if it is architecture. I pop in my headphones and just draw for hours. I can be there for 7 hours straight and not realise. The choice of colours is really quite instinctual. It’s hard to explain why I use one colour over another. Sometimes I’ll roll out meters of paper on the street and throw ink around and see what comes out of it. These days though I try to be a bit more practical. I’ve also taken much more to creating work on the ipad. I was quite resistant at first but then my dad got me into it, mostly for practical reasons as lugging around all my materials was becoming quite laborious. At the moment my canvas is the body itself and architecture the subject. I like to consider people a total work of art when they move. Like a moving painting. I don’t feel art needs to be defined as one thing or another and I guess this is part of my statement. I certainly make my work with aesthetics in mind, so beauty is important to me for sure but I have ideas for collections in the coming years which will be much more conceptually challenging. I think there is an entire beauty in itself when we use the body as a walking canvas.

I create functional items because I want to make them more accessible than something unwearable but they are also a statement piece in your life. Each art work and style is limited edition so there will only be a select number of people with the same piece and each is a work of art in its own right. I’ve always seen it as the same as investing in a limited edition print, like you would from any artist, only this time you can wear it. You become a walking piece of art – and you could equally frame it if you wish! I’m very interested in how we move and the importance that being active is to our overall wellbeing. I certainly think a healthy body leads to a healthy mind which in turn allows us to express ourselves better with more confidence.

UO: You use linear shapes and bold colours in your designs; how did you develop your style?

Interesting question. I’m not sure I know the answer to this. It is just my style and it’s all I know. When I draw I just get in to a zone and create. I never question or stop and think. It’s very immediate and flows. I guess the more linear elements have come later on and appeal to the more ordered side of me but also to the fact that the details don’t really concern me. I’m much more interested in form and structure. I feel lucky in that as a person I can be quite free with a sense of order to uphold that which I guess might be reflected in my work.

UO: You’ve done a collaboration with musician Auclair which combines your digital work with music. How did this partnership come about?

Auclair is a very good friend of mine since we met at the Roundhouse many years ago. She took inspiration/sounds from the buildings to create a range of audio pieces to go alongside the London collection. I let her take it in whatever direction she felt right as she, like me, is very instinctual and I have a huge amount of respect for her work and her process. When I’m not making work for the clothing I run another project which is also collaboration with an audio artist. There is something really wonderful about the two things coming together and responding and literally communicating to one another. I like the more sensory and three-dimensional experience that these collaborations provide. Also working with other artists is hugely inspiring.

UO: What music do you usually listen to when you’re working?

This could be embarrassing. When I’m painting big and with paints and inks I love to listen to Pearl Jam or Calexico. This comes from when I used to go to life drawing classes when I was living in Melbourne and the teacher, who I must credit for re-igniting my passion for drawing, would play these tunes. I have wonderful associations with it. Sometimes I’ve been known to listen to more popular stuff but perhaps we don’t need to go there! Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Nils Frahm while working. I saw him live at the Roundhouse and was almost levitating from the sound!

UO: What has been your favourite building or landmark to draw?

It has to be Gaudi and in particular the Sagrada Familia. He is on another level, it is timeless and his work is something that can never be defined. I see it anew every time and discover new elements and components always. I must have drawn this building 100 times or more but I will never tire.

UO: Your job must include a lot of travel. What are your tips for anyone wanting to experience a city from a more creative point of view?

Yes, I have to admit this has been a rather wonderful element to having a subject matter that cannot be limited to staying in London. Well for a start, get to know the locals and if you can, stay with someone local. It might seem kind of a contradiction given that much of my work is about the iconic places that thousands of people queue to visit daily but I guess if you can cut through the hoards and (often necessary) commercial elements to these places then you can have quite a unique experience. It took me years to actually go inside Sagrada Famila for example. Mostly I would sit outside and just look at it from all different vantage points. Drawing was a wonderful way to get it know it quite intimately – something I don’t know a photograph can ever really capture.

Actually one thing I would say is put down the iphones and cameras and find a quiet place to look at these marvellous creations. Something about silence combined with magnificence seems quite important to me. Like I say though, get in with the locals and live like one even if only there for a few days. I rarely go into these landmarks and instead find the local bars to sit and people watch and a great yoga studio – I can’t go anywhere without my daily yoga practise and so taking what is familiar to me and experiencing it through another city is almost always one of my long lasting memories of a place.

UO: Are there any artists/ designers that are inspiring you currently?

I have so many artists I admire and recently I have been to a lot of exhibitions so I’m feeling especially inspired. I went the Hockney portraits show at the Royal Academy then shortly after went to LA and so everything just made so much sense. I’ve always loved his work but I especially loved this show. I’m also increasingly interested in the work of a lot more video artists. I went to Infinate Mix at the Hayward recently and was blow away. Jeremy Deller is a huge favourite of mine – he is the finest social commentator. I love Grayson Perry again for his subject matter. I’m also obsessed with Chantal Joffe who I think is one of the finest painters around at the moment.

UO: Which city will you be heading to next?

Lisbon in a few weeks. I can’t wait. I’ll be staying at a beautiful hotel and doing designs based on their frontage. I’m doing many more collaborations with interesting places to stay around the world which is a wonderful way to see through the eyes of a city. I’m artist in residence for a period of time and create work based on the place and surrounding architecture. I can’t wait to explore the city as I have never been. I’ve recently got into surfing too so I will do at least one day surfing whilst there and of course yoga every day at the local studio!