Studio visit – Claire

We recently had the pleasure of meeting with Claire Price, an English-born artist residing in Mexico, at her beautiful studio in Santa María la Ribera.

Claire grew up in Exmoor (South West England), spending much of her time in a corner of her childhood home which was “full of junk,” making things and painting with watercolors from the age of four. She later turned up with pink hair to the University of Oxford to read History (with a specialism in Mexican society at the time of the conquest) and then moved straight to London to follow her dream to become an artist with no idea quite how to, but “why not!?” She spent a year focusing on bringing a portfolio together and then got accepted to and attended the Royal Drawing School, London. She subsequently moved to Oaxaca for a residency entitled ‘First Food’ to explore food packaging in relation to Oaxaca’s folk and religious art but has now lived in Mexico for seven years and has exhibited at Salon Acme and Material Art Fair, both in Mexico City.

Claire’s experience of growing up in the countryside was a combination of “trashy paintings of chocolate-box houses for tourists, village hall fetes with grandmas and daffodils and disillusioned kids taking cheap pills in the park,” leading her to want to reject this false idea of romanticising the ‘authentic’ traditional. When embarking upon her art career in London, she focused on “serious” inspirations from Medieval and Renaissance Art but, upon moving to Mexico and discovering the similarities between her home village and Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (a government program to promote tourism by recognizing towns across Mexico that have certain characteristics and traditions that make them unique, and historically significant, offering “magical” experiences to visitors) thought it interesting to re-explore the ideas of preserving tradition and fantasy and reality and to lean in to the sincerity of her childhood experiences and “the trashy kitsch stuff.”

Equally struck by the visual culture in Mexico – colourful Catholic altars and markets full of Chinese plastic products – Claire maintains a colourful and joyful approach to her oil paintings and fully embraces kitsch, pink, femininity, girlhood and softness (in contrast to monumental, masculine “serious” oil paintings), therefore questioning why these colors, aesthetics and subject matters have not traditionally been taken seriously in the art world. She incorporates glitter, stickers and plastic pearls to create pieces “that belong as much in the world of the markets and papelerias as they do in ‘the history of art.’” 

The last major theme of her work is nature and our relationship with the environment, with Claire’s paintings featuring butterflies, dolphins and ponies, all of which “have become so intertwined with pop culture that we no longer think of them as insects or animals or as part of the natural environment.” Describing her exploration of this relationship, Claire describes the history of how people have thought about nature, highlighting that “in the Medieval period there wasn’t a scientific understanding and people thought that animals and insects spontaneously generated and then disappeared.” She links this to the naivete of how we live and consume today, with “sliced bread in plastic bags simply appearing on supermarket shelves and throwing our waste in the bin only for it to ‘disappear.’”

Claire describes herself as having a playful approach to her work, a joint processing and investigation of the ideas she comes across and explores. With sometimes few elements to her pieces and “a desire to keep her paintings’ luminosity and translucency despite using oils,” she spends a lot of time thinking about and planning placement, rhythm and balance (inspired by Haikus and Zen poetry), with everything having its own space. She therefore has to be in the right moment, listening to scientific podcasts such as “Ologies” when she’s exploring science, cells and microbes or the exact right song for – “they’re very performative to paint – they feel quite musical and dance-like – you have to feel every gesture.” 

Thank you, Claire, for sharing your passion, creativity, and the stories behind your enchanting works. We look forward to witnessing the continued evolution of your artistic exploration and the narratives that will undoubtedly unfold on your canvases.