The words are a combination of an overheard or imagined narrative, my personal state of mind, the world around me, and all the things between that are hard to label.
Self-taught artist Niki Hare’s word paintings are first and foremost about giving shape to emotions that can be hard to express in daily life. The work is highly personal, and even when, at times, the words are buried underneath one another, the important thing, according to the artist, is that they have been said. Hare’s unique use of color, transparency and layering is emblematic of her ambition to create a new visual language. The often vibrant works convey a sense of depth and movement, some words stand out, some fade to the back, creating a second narrative, that takes places in the interplay between the words, extending far beyond their individual meaning.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. Did you always want to be an artist?
A. No, I never wanted to be an artist. It was just something that found me, because I couldn’t do anything else.
I had a passion for two things growing up, horses and art. I did start at art college but it didn’t work out so I went off and rode horses for the next 20 years. My thing was the problem horses, the ones that didn’t fit in. At some point, I wanted to explore other things but couldn’t get a job, so accidentally became an artist.
Q. How did you arrive at your characteristic style of working with layered text?
A. I found some stencils that were reduced to clear at the local stationers. I liked letter forms and thought I could use them in abstract paintings, which I did, or sections of them. It didn’t occur to me to say anything with them for a long while. Fortunately, I hadn’t seen the work of any other artists using text, so when I finally thought to say something I thought I had found something new. It was a bit of a eureka moment when I realised I could say anything I wanted in paint, but then I was uncomfortable with the idea of anyone else seeing what I really thought. So I covered the words up again by layering them over one another or just obliterating them with paint. The idea was that although the words may no longer be visible, they had still been said. From there, the layering process just became more refined; all things develop if you keep doing them.
Q. Has language always played an important role in your life?
A. I have always loved words, and their flexibility of meaning, often this comes with a sense of humour. I have always read and written. I have this fascination with how a few simple words, written in the right order, can be so powerful. The same goes for a painting or a tiny sketch, a few lines or colours can express so much. I never had any idea of what to do with my words as they didn’t fit into any normal literal sort of expression, but they do somehow work with my paintings.
Q. Are the words you use meant to convey a narrative, personal emotions, or are they entirely open to interpretation based on the viewer’s personal frame of mind?
A. The words are all of these things, a combination of an overheard or imagined narrative, my personal state of mind, the world around me, and all the things between that are hard to label. I find it hard to express myself, so I do this thing with paint and I find that somehow people can relate to that .
Q. Your work often layers words and phrases over one another, leaving some hardly legible while others protrude to the foreground. Is there an inherent hierarchy you’d like to establish within your work or is this entirely intuitive or coincidental?
A. Initially, I would paint words and then just obliterate them completely, then I got to layering them over with other words, and then I got to multiple layers with transparencies. It’s all very free flow, I have an idea of the top layer, but never really know how it will turn out. I start with an idea but then it evolves and often goes wrong. It's very difficult to fit words within a space so I don’t plan too much and somehow that’s better.
Q. What would you like to achieve with this convergence of two different modes of communication - the visual and the textual? Would you consider your work a new type of language?
A. Absolutely, for me it is a new type of language. That is just how I feel, and of course I have a different relationship with the paintings, as it’s me painting them. I have a certain thought, emotion, or idea when working, but the other factor I find interesting is how it can change over time, or when viewed from a different perspective. An example: I was packing a lot of paintings just after my Dad died, these were my paintings that I had painted with one thought in mind, but then as I looked at them I understood the words in a completely different way.
Q. Does your work enable you to ‘say’ things in a visual manner that would otherwise be left unsaid?
A. I am not great at expressing myself through speech and have found that I can say whatever I want with painted language. But it’s more than that , I think the language of words within painting can somehow describe things that there are no words for.
Q. You have stated that your works act as portraits and investigations of the self, could you elaborate on this?
A. This comment was perhaps more about earlier works, but not irrelevant to what I do now. Painting has always got to be about the self, you can only paint well what you feel inside yourself most intensely. You paint what you know.
Q. Transparency seems to be a central element to much of your work, does this fulfill a symbolic as well as an aesthetic function?
A. Transparency has always interested me, something that is between places. I love both the quality and the aesthetic, but also the meaning. I find it hard to describe, but I always feel between one place and another, in a transient area. My earliest memories of this were sitting on a bus, I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to arrive - meanwhile I was transparent - this was where I felt most comfortable.
Q. You do not limit yourself to the canvas; what are some of your favourite other projects you have worked on?
A. I don’t really know much about art, but just like making things in general. My skills are limited but I have really enjoyed producing things like large scale paper-folding installations, video works and funny sculptures made out of things like sticks and glue or Lego.
Q. Much of your work is extremely vibrant and has an intense sense of movement to it - what would you like to achieve with this dynamic aesthetic?
A. I just enjoy the movement and energy that can be achieved with a bit of paint. I love how it surprises me, how I never know how it will turn out. I know it sounds really boring, but I do a lot of the same old thing. Of course it changes a bit, there are ideas to try out. Repletion is no bad thing, you get better at it and then bored and then it evolves.
Q. How, if so, has selling your work online influenced your artistic practice?
A. Selling online has turned my thing that I did when nobody was looking into a full time job. Ideally, I should get someone to help with the paperwork side of it and find a larger studio space. Online actually suits me really well as I don’t really like speaking and my marketplace is global. I sell very few paintings down the street.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Three is difficult
Not - That - Great
Said - and - Done
Time - will - tell