Georgiana - Stella Vine
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Stella Vine: Her True Story

An excerpt from an interview with Stella Vine by Cathy Lomax

Apart from a short art course at Hampstead School of Art Stella Vine has had no formal art training. She came to public attention when her painting of Diana Princess of Wales, Hi Paul Can I Come Over… was bought by Charles Saatchi from the Girl on Girl show at Transition and subsequently shown in New Blood at The Saatchi Gallery. Since then the press coverage has been relentless, fuelled by stories about Stella’s past and a painting of heroin addict Rachel Whitear.
Where do your ideas come from? Do you see an image and then make a painting from it?
Basically the ideas for my work have been in my head for a really, really long time, fifteen years or longer. If an image comes up and it is something to do with that, it suddenly clicks, but the ideas have been there for a long time. I used to write songs about PJ Harvey or Sylvia Plath, or Emily Pankhurst- strong, inspiring women. I’d do some sort of creative… soup or medley. Like I wrote a song about a women who was continually twitching her curtains to look out of her window because she’d gone a bit mad and was living a sad life, she was a neighbour of mine. At the same time it had elements inspired by PJ Harvey and Sylvia Plath as well as all sorts of other things within my own life.

So it all came together in these creative works?
Yes, I don’t think that the painting is any different from that. When I was at my painting classes in Hampstead, I was painting Sylvia Plath and I was painting my step dad and his lawn. My inspiration now is no different from the images that were in my head when I first became aware of how you can be creative, even at age seven when I was making things with playdoh.

How long does it take you to do a painting?
It’s different for each one but they tend to be really good when they’re finished in 10-20 minutes after that time I start going over things that were good. It’s an immediacy thing, which becomes ruined and then I want to go back and can’t.

So you’ve never just carried on and on with a painting?
I think when I have carried working on and on and on and on for hours and even when I’ve come back to it a few weeks later its not as good as it was in that first ten minutes, it’s like the three cords thing in music.

I just went to see the Lucien Freud show at the Wallace collection and I wondered what you thought of his laborious way of working.
At the moment, I can’t work like that. If I do ruin something, if I take it beyond that initial getting the idea down and it’s ruined, then the option is to wipe the board clean or to carry on or to throw it out. I will most likely carry on until it’s really, really destroyed. If I can bear to leave it for a few months and come back to it, I might quite like it, it has happened.

I just wonder how Freud can carry on and on, it must be so boring for him. In The Wallace Collection show there is a tiny painting of some eggs, and the paint is really thick.
It must change so much over that long period there must be a million paintings there

What would you say is the overall thing that you are trying to get across in your paintings?
Oh fuck

Its been described as a kind of dark feeling
Um, if I think of something really dark I’ll think of what’s really light and try and put that in somehow and vice versa.

So you’re looking for a balance
Yeh, although they probably all weigh in on the dark side really.

But they also make you smile. Like Hi Paul, Can You Come Over its dark but its got that element of trashiness or maybe its kitsch. It definitely has humour, it makes me smile. It’s a slightly inappropriate humour sometimes, which is interesting.
Yeh I think that that’s part of my personality, that sense of humour.

You’re first solo show Prozac and Private Views is coming up what work will be in it?
I’m going to have a really good go at doing a Sylvia Plath gas cooker, I don’t know exactly what that will be, but I think it will have some of her poems on it because the family are so protective of the rights to them

Do you feel that these things that aren’t allowed are areas that you need to explore? Is it about breaking taboos?
I think that the poems are so incredible, that they belong to us. I haven’t seen that film (Sylvia with Gwyneth Paltrow) and I don’t particularly want to see it, but it is sad that they weren’t allowed to use the poems.

Because after all they’re out there in the public realm, they’re not secret and there’s all this stuff about Sylvia’s life, which people know, so the family trying to control it seems slightly disingenerous. I think that once things enter into the public domain like the picture of Rachel Whitear that you used for your painting they almost become impersonal. They are just images and not part of the real Rachel. The real things are Rachel’s parents memories of her, or Sylvia’s childrens' memories of her.
And the poems are so powerful aren’t they, they belong to us

But the fact that the family have that attitude and the poems have got all the tragic history of Sylvia Plath attached to them, that morbidness, it adds an extra element. That dying young thing adds something. Like with Kurt Kobain or James Dean. What is it about it that interests you?
I think it is such a fine line between staying and going, everyone is just really hanging on by their fingernails in some way and I’m quite fascinated by that. That being on the edge of the cliff

There seem to be some comparisons between yourself and Tracey Emin; the Stuckist antipathy, your self-revelatory natures. What do you think of her work?
I admire her, she is inspiring, her ideas are profound; the shop, the museum, selling the letters, the tent, the bed. All very moving. She’s very strong, difficult, likeable and she’s not afraid to not be sweet and cool. I think that you wouldn’t mess with her, she seems quite frightening.

What do you think of the press coverage that you’ve had?
Well Goya’s portraits were fucking dark, how did he get away with that? Even Gainsborough you can see the character beneath the beauty, he was trying to say something. Maybe we’re heading for fascist times, the nanny state, political correctness. To cause such an uproar about Rachel and Diana is frightening. The thing with the press is that they know the angle that they want and if you don’t give them the answers they just pick out bits that give them what they want anyway.
I’m a cheeky survivor, I talk shit, I’m pro active, I opened a gallery, I’m still here. They don’t print that do they?


This interview first appeared in Arty 15
Illustration - Alex Michon