In the Studio with Oriele Steiner

British artist Oriele Steiner experiments with colour and light within her practice, creating vivid dreamscapes inhabited by subconscious figures. We met with Oriele to tell us more about her influences, artistic practice, and plans for the future.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I have been creative from a really young age, but I really started to see myself as an artist when I left art school.

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I grew up in North London. My dad was a painter and a sign language interpreter and my mum is hard of hearing, so sign language was a huge part of my childhood.  Sign language is a very visual way of communicating – I’ve been surrounded by adults using their bodies and hands as a way of communicating. I think this is definitely what drew me to painting figuratively.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience? 

After school I went to Brighton University to study Fine Art: Painting, since then I have had a couple of studios in Brighton and one in Liverpool as part of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries bursary in 2017. I will be studying a Masters in Painting at Slade next year – which I’m really excited for.

What’s the message of your work?

 I am currently exploring what it means to be lonely or feel isolated in a world where we are (or we are supposed to be)  so connected. I paint figuratively, mostly people I know well, and they tend to be alone.

I  paint the figures distorted to make them seem like part of a distant memory, or give the idea that maybe you never even saw them? The latter relates to having epilepsy and having experiences of “Jamais Vu” – which is the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognises in some fashion, but that nonetheless seems novel and unfamiliar.

The Human experience and psychology are what interest me the most. I ask myself and others a lot about their experiences of being a human and what makes us so unique and so different from one another, but also so similar.

Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic? 

My  ideas can be quite impulsive. They can come from anywhere or anything, as long as it interested me. From these ideas I draw, and then I paint.  I would say my work is influenced by the expressionists/post-impressionists, but it can vary from time to time.

Who and what are your greatest influences? 

Edvard Munch, Yayoi Kusama, Gauguin, Matisse, Pieter Bruegel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner…the list could go on.

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

My works are in some way planned, but I like to keep them as spontaneous as possible. If I plan too much the paintings can become contrived and overworked. I think that people delve in to their own experiences and are maybe forced to feel uncomfortable when viewing my paintings. The figures are quite vague so perhaps people can relate to them. I’d like my work to act as a reflection of the viewer – to remind them of their experiences.

Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1925

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise? How has your art evolved? 

It’s hard to pinpoint what moments have changed my practice, that happens quite naturally for me – it could be the weather, where I am or the fact that I have purchased some new and different materials to work with. I started as a watercolour painter, then when I went to art school and started using oil paints for painting and and oil pastels for drawing. Now I’ve gone back to a more fluid style of painting, using Gouache which feels a lot more natural for me – but I’m open to finding new materials and seeing where they take me.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

It’s got to be the morning, a lot of prep, water, a tidy desk and a good podcast.

What are your goals for the future? (Projects, collaborations)

I would like to continue on my journey. I think I still have a lot to learn from painting itself and I’d like to spend time with other artists, learning and possibly collaborating. I’m hoping that doing my Masters next year will push me towards these goals!

How have you been keeping creative during isolation?

I’ve spent more time with my sketchbook and pencils 🙂


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