An Interview With British Artist Milla Eastwood in Her Studio in Brixton, London

Talented newcomers are bringing the Brits back.

Milla Eastwood in her London studio. Photo: courtesy of Arteviste.

This interview was first published on Arteviste. It has been lightly edited.

Brixton-based painter Milla Eastwood and I first met at the preview of her critically-acclaimed solo exhibition Drunk on Colour at the Dot Project in Chelsea, London. Although I have always favored gestural, abstract paintings, I was yet to experience her energy and dynamic color palette. She composes her expressive work in her expansive Brixton studio, and sometimes even ventures to botanical gardens and natural landscapes.

With her natural sense of community, Eastwood regularly visits other artists’ studios and consciously keeps up to date with exhibitions at London galleries such as Fold Gallery, Rod Barton, Limoncello, and Studio Voltaire. And her favorite shows last year? The Royal Academy School Show 2016, Kes Richardson at Fold Gallery, Donna Huanca at Zabludowcz Collection, and Magnus Plessen at White Cube.

Each individual mark on Eastwood’s canvases is layered and complex, with every line and form playing an important role within the overall composition. Be it the blocks of color, slashes or shapes, they are all indicative of the evocative experience of the viewer. In fact, her cutting-edge paintings don’t just exist within the confines of the canvas, but overflow into the room, creating a realm of shared space with her audience.

Milla Eastwood Resfeber (2016). Photo: courtesy of Arteviste.

Eastwood is interested in the artwork of Jonathan Lasker, Phoebe Unwin, Mandy Lyn Ford, Eddie Martinez, and Tal R, but it’s the work of fellow emerging artists such as Rafal Topolewski, Laurence Owen, Stevie Dix, and Thom Trojanowski Hobson that really captures her imagination. For me, I find her work particularly captivating, because she embodies the accessible, collaborative atmosphere shared among emerging artists in London. Our film about Eastwood is sponsored by S W Mitchell Capital and will be screened at Soho House.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist? 
No, I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I start intuitively by setting down a group of forms. The forms are my initial response to the surface and to the space. When I approach the paintings my aim is to embody the forms within the work, so that they are contained within the space and act as a whole. The process is about responding and creating a visual language that connects to the eye, through line and form. However, it’s not the easiest way of working because the paintings cannot be envisaged. They are reactive to the conditions of their own making.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I definitely haven’t made it yet.

Milla Eastwood Kalpa (2016). Photo: courtesy of Arteviste.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?
I wouldn’t like to work in any past art movements; it’s what’s going on now that gets me excited.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
“If you truly love nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere” – wise old Van Gogh.

Do you have a favorite photograph or painting, which inspires you?
Mandy Lyn Ford’s [@bettyscreams__] studio shots inspire me. There’s so much making involved in her work

What is your greatest indulgence in life?
I’d like to say travel, but it’s probably just all things colorful.

How does the culture of South London impact your work?
Although the culture itself doesn’t impact my work so much, I live and work in Brixton, and the area has a wonderful spirit. It’s the energy that gets me going.

What’s the significance of your color palette?
My choice of color isn’t representative. There is a process of decision-making and aptness involved when choosing colors. Usually I limit myself to just four or five colors as it helps my focus when reacting to the forms while painting.

Milla Eastwood Kabelsalat (2016). Photo: courtesy of Arteviste.

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Actually, there’s a bunch of present artists that I would like to meet such as Shara Hughes, Tamina Amadyar, and Arlene Shechet. I would also like to go and visit Isabelle Tuchband’s house and studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Do you interact with technology in your work?
I take photos with my phone of the different stages of my painting. Rotating the image and covering bits up is all part of the process. It’s also a good way for me to edit and evaluate my work when I’m not in the studio. Saying this, it’s also vital that I immerse myself in the natural world as well as the cyber.

What do you wish every child were taught?
I think Drumduan School founded by Tilda Swinton in Scotland has an amazing ethos for teaching.

“We live in an age where much of our establishment is now under question and rightly so. Long held traditions, religions and major institutions are being scrutinized, yet are enough of us asking the fundamental questions? What is the true purpose of our education system? Why do we sit at desks for much of the day at school for over ten years? Are we teaching our pupils the life skills they need?”

Have you ever questioned your career entirely?
I’ve never questioned being an artist, but there are a million things that I want to do.

What is your favorite art gallery in South London and why? 
My favorite London galleries are Rod Barton, South London Gallery, Newport Street Gallery, and the Dot Project. Studio Voltaire in South London always has exciting new work; I find that I’m drawn to the less conventional spaces. South London’s art organisations and artist run spaces have loads going on; I’ve been to some interesting group shows of emerging artists at Maverick Projects and Safehouse 1 in Peckham.

Do you work within a community or independently?
I work within a community of artists. I like walking down the corridor and hearing heavy metal coming from one studio and classical music from another. From my experience it’s always been really important for my practice to engage with other artists. One day I would like to build my own creative community.

Milla Eastwood Boketto (2016). Photo: courtesy of Arteviste.

Why do you make and receive studio visits? 
It’s interesting walking into the mind of an artist, I love studio visits because they allow people to explore the nature of the artist. The best thing about studio visits is discovering the thought process of the artist.

What visual references do you draw upon in your work?
Everything I engage with is a visual reference. The initial spark for a recent painting, Boketto, was a tiny rectangle of masking tape that somebody had doodled on and stuck onto one of the walls near my Brixton studio.

What is your daily routine when working?
I’m not a morning person so it’s a slow start, usually spent flicking through Instagram or trolling through immersive psychedelic sites, reading art magazines, or catching up on a few Arteviste articles. But, when I start painting, it’s intense and wholehearted.

What advice would you give to young artists starting out? 
Do what you do and surround yourself with other artists.

Do you love what you do?
Yes. I love that all my experiences in life shape what I do.

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