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Laura Tillotson: Working from memory

Tillotson’s work demonstrates an intuitive and innate understanding of the balance needed to navigate oneself between conflicting poles.

The artist will typically work with a specific memory of an event or time, allowing the imagination to alter and express itself upon the memory.

Indeed, as Tillotson herself notes, “[my] paintings are drawn from a flashback of a memory or a spontaneous grasp of a visual enchantment, painting with expression alongside the imagination.”

“The imagination is present in everything I paint,” Tillotson continues, “using recognisable visual experiences allows me to… grasp [the audience’s] attention for a couple of seconds and tell them a little story about my experiences”.

Laura Tillotson, Leaden, Oil on board, 60x80cm, 2020

The result is a stunning mix of familiar objects and scenes, that take on an almost dreamlike appearance through the use of contrasting colours and painting techniques that diffuse the hard contours, blending disparate elements together.

However, balancing a project between a specific memory and allowing the imagination to infuse it is not easy.

As Tillotson notes, “trying to balance preconceived subjects and intertwine this with the imagination is the tricky part for me”.

The difficulty lies in allowing the memory or the photograph to guide the painting, but not dictate it, “I am conscious that if I start painting from the basis of a photograph… I am continually trying to alter the painting to look like the photograph.”

One feels that the same could be said of the ways in which we live our lives; we are continually trying to balance our expectations and ambitions with the reality of our situation.

It is a tricky line to walk, for our desires are fuel to motivate us to go out and achieve, however it can be disheartening when the world does not live up to our expectations.

The balancing act becomes one of intuition, seeing what is right at a given time and responding appropriately to the situation as it arises.

Doing so requires a certain intuition, being in touch with both our desires and the reality of the world, and allowing a trade off between them.

Laura Tillotson, Morning, Oil on canvas, 80 x 91cm, 2019

Such is the wisdom that Tillotson brings to her craft, as she says “I actually prefer to work intuitively, accepting that photographs, sketches and memories may just help start the painting, but through the act of painting and using the imagination, the painting can progress itself.”

This intuition is the result of adaptability and a willingness to improvise to overcome a certain struggle.

As Tillotson points out, “I don’t want to define myself in one specific way… sometimes I may want to be restrictive in my ideas… [at others] allowing tricks and relationships in the painting… to happen naturally.”

I am left with the impression that Tillotson’s description of her practise is a perfectly fitting guide for the approach that we should bring to our lives.

We cannot be caught up in one specific mode of being, and should allow ourselves to be fluid in our expression, allowing ourselves to operate in one way at a given time, and then changing when it is required.

In doing so, we learn to respond wisely to the world, accepting that our hopes and ambitions are helpful in getting us started but, to paraphrase Tillotson, using our imagination, our lives can progress themselves.

Or, as Tillotson appropriately puts it, “I think that being too protective over some parts of a painting when trying to move it forward… can actually destroy the future of the painting.”

Laura Tillotson, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 2019

Claude Pink

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