The multimedia Latvian artist creates narratives with strong imagery and symbolism.
Valerie Savchits is a multidisciplinary and multimedia visual artist from Latvia whose practice encompasses abstract art, brut art and graffiti. After starting a degree course in chemical technology in Riga, Valerie decided to chase her artistic inclination and moved to the UK. She achieved a first class honours BA degree in Visual Arts at the University of Salford and started her practice in Manchester, before moving to London in 2016. Valerie works both on commissioned pieces and personal projects and she has been based at Hotel Elephant since November 2016.
Valerie’s interest in arts dates back to her childhood, when she used to take art classes at the early age of three. Her artworks are full of imagery and symbolism, with strong references to major cultural or political moments from history, film and literature. Interweaving them with today's values, standards and beliefs, Valerie’s practice aims to encourage viewers to deeply question their past, present, and views of the future. The wide array of techniques and materials used by the artist includes oil paint, spray paint, plastic, concrete and different fabrics. Valerie always tries new approaches and constantly experiments with new materials. Her work appeared in Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery, Affordable Art Fair UK, The Guardian, BBC Live and Uniqlo on Oxford Street, as well as in several art magazines such as Sukeban Gang, Average Art Magazine and Art Maze Mag. She is also one of the winners of Hotel Elephant & Southwark Council's Art & Culture Grant Scheme.
We met Valerie in her studio at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street to find out more about her winning project for the Southwark Council’s Art & Culture Grant Scheme, her studio at Hotel Elephant and to get her advice for those starting out on a creative career.
Hi Valerie! Congratulations on winning the Hotel Elephant & Southwark Council’s Art & Culture Grant Scheme! Can you tell us a bit more about this project?
This was a great and exciting opportunity provided by the Southwark Council in collaboration with Hotel Elephant. This program has commissioned six new pieces of work to be made by recent graduate artists, and I’ve been one of the shortlisted ones after sending my proposal. I’ve created a mixed media artwork which included a light installation. The final
show was especially interesting as all artists have been showcased together.
Was it the first time that you worked with neon lights?
The first time I created a neon light installation was for my degree show back at the University of Salford in 2016. I just love studying, learning new things, and constantly acquiring new knowledge. I guess my inclination towards experimenting is a legacy of my chemistry background, and I always try to use new materials and challenge established concepts and artistic practices. My next project will involve some type of light installation.
Well, we always love to hear about our members’ work in progress projects! Can you tell us something about it?
It’s going to be a series of light boxes which will replace canvas, at the moment I’m exploring different materials that could be used instead of classic cotton/linen fabric - I’m still processing this but it sounds something very new to me as it’ll be centred on the perception of lights and colours.
We can see that some colours, especially pink, recur often in your artworks. Can you tell us a bit more about your way of working, artistic preferences and sources of inspiration?
I know, my colour palette is kind of limited in a way. It’s hard to explain but I just feel irritated by the use of certain colours in painting, like green and orange for example but give my preference to all shades of black, red and blue. My colour palette carries a very ambiguous meaning as I prefer not to label things and associate one particular colour with what we consciously associate it with. When I work, I generally tend not to plan anything but rather paint straight away. I don’t have a sketchbook and I don’t make any preparatory drawing - I just want to depict my current feelings and emotions. My paintings are like my personal diary, I just let my thoughts flow. I do sometimes use images as references, maybe taken from the internet, but my real source of inspiration is my everyday life. It’s always so
accidental, I could get inspired by my mum’s stories when talking to her on the phone or by the coloured wrapping foils of candies left on the table.
Can you tell us a bit about how you use your studio at Hotel Elephant for your practice?
My studio is messy and chaotic. I just go to the shops to pick the materials I need, come back here, drop them somewhere and start painting. Here I also build my frames and canvases. I spend most of my weekends here, from Friday to Sunday, as I also work part-time as a graphic designer.
What do you like the most about working at Hotel Elephant?
I have my own studio at Hotel Elephant since almost a year and I’ve just enjoyed a lot all the time spent here. It’s great to have the opportunity to be part of a community and be involved in lots of interesting activities. I’ve met very interesting artists here, as well as attended inspiring talks and workshops. And I just love the location - the railway arches are so cool! I never had a studio like this before and all my visitors or clients get really impressed!
At Hotel Elephant we’re interested in creating a creative community and encouraging collaborative working - How important do you think collaborative working is to your field?
I think that collaboration in the art world is really important, and artists should be encouraged to do collaborative work. I personally find it interesting to work with different people and it’s amazing to see how artists can gather their forces to create a piece. It’s also a great opportunity to find out new things - for instance, thanks to my collaboration with Paul’s Boutique where I was asked to paint some of their bags, I realised that it would have been interesting to try and paint on different materials.
Do you have any advice for recent graduates or those just starting who want a career in the art sector?
Do art for yourself and not for an audience. Art is how you express yourself, so don’t be money-driven - it’s about you and not someone else. And if you’re still studying, check your student email regularly. It may sound weird, but that’s where you can find most opportunities: thanks to an email, I’ve been able to exhibit my work at the Uniqlo Tate Late series at Tate Modern.