Interview Llinos Owen
Llinos Owen (b.1998) is a Welsh fine art textile artist originally from North Wales, currently based in South London. Owen graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts in 2020 and since then has been featured in national and international publications, exhibiting across the UK as well as in a recent solo exhibition titled "Thank Your Lucky Stars" at Orleans House Gallery in London.
Llinos Owen's autobiographical textile practice begins with personal written and visual material from her diary as the artist documents her thoughts and experiences focusing on vulnerable themes relating to mental health, personal relationships and anxieties. The artist initially started writing in her diary as a form of meditation, but unexpectedly and naturally, the material in her diary became the starting point and main source of inspiration for her textile works.
Llinos Owen's textile practice explores memories, anxieties, relationships, youth and personal life experiences to create textured tapestries focusing youth culture inspired figurative imagery through the medium of punch needle rug hooking. Owen’s highly personal textile practice explores themes relating to the artist’s identity as she views her diaristic inspired pieces as forms of visual storytelling and self portraiture.
Identity and gender are important themes within Owen's practice as the materials and techniques she explores acknowledges the history of feminine identities by focusing on historically women dominated craft, which blurs the lines between the domestic, the mundane and the gallery space. Although the artist predominantly works with textile materials, Owen's practice is heavily drawing focused and still considers her thinking and approach to making as being very painterly.
How do you describe your work to somebody who has never seen it?
I would describe my work as textile tapestry pieces made through the medium of punch needle rug hooking. My work is very autobiographical and explores different themes relating to identity as I view my pieces as different forms of self-portraiture.
When did you start working in the tapestry world and why?
I moved to London to study painting at Wimbledon College of Arts and during my time there I started experimenting with textile material and printmaking, I really enjoyed the processes but halfway through my final year at art school the pandemic began so I moved back home to North Wales. I couldn’t make the work that I was making at university as I didn't have access to a studio space and all of the facilities we had so I started researching different textile techniques where I could work from home with limited space and continue to explore and further my textile practice and that’s how I was introduced to punch needle rug hooking and tufting.
I spent the first lockdown learning about the technique, looking at different textile works online, and experimenting with different materials, and since then it’s been my practice’s main medium!
What creatives challenges have you faced and overcome that have transformed your art practice?
I think one of the biggest creative challenges I’ve faced so far is abruptly leaving art school due to the pandemic and then trying to navigate the art world as an artist fresh out of education during a time where everything was still very uncertain and strange.
My first year as a graduate was in and out of lockdowns, galleries weren’t open, exhibitions or studio visits weren’t happening, so it was very difficult to meet other artists and I was also finding it very difficult to find a studio space in London during this time.
During this time I was working full time and then working on my art practice in the evenings from my bedroom without really knowing which direction I was heading with my work. I was finding it hard to imagine my work up in galleries or imagining people actually looking at them in person as we were all so isolated during that time.
This experience really solidified my passion towards making and made me realise that I was creating piece after piece because I really enjoyed it and not because I was making my work only to be seen or consumed by others.
I believe that this realisation (although it didn’t seem that important at the time) transformed my art practice in a way where I will always be certain that I create because I want to create and there’s a deeper personal purpose within my making and why I choose to create, which is for my happiness and enjoyment rather for anything or for anyone else.
How has your work developed since began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
When I started working with the technique and materials that I work with now, I was creating a lot of self-portraiture works and started creating works based on personal diary entries. The first series of punch needle rug hooked works were based on diary entries from the first lockdown so naturally personal themes relating to self, mental health, identity and so on would often appear.
I still currently create works based on writing from my diary and as personal writing is such an important part of my process, I can’t see myself changing from that any time soon.
I’ve been creating tapestry works inspired by different club scenes and crowds of people embracing each other and dancing. The figures in my work are almost always strangers as a reference to a piece of personal writing I wrote during lockdown about missing normality and feeling like I was missing out on my early 20s. The works are inspired by a piece of writing I wrote at a time when we were all very isolated from each other, about missing being in a club surrounded by strangers and the idea of everyone being in one space together for the same reason and despite being strangers and not knowing anything about each other, being connected in a unique way.
I really do enjoy the subject matter that I’m working with at the moment and I’m definitely carrying on with the same process of writing to tapestry and I see my work evolving by hopefully collaborating with artists that are involved within the spaces that I base my work on.
Tell us a bit about your process and what would you say is your most predominant to create?
My process starts with writing and then imagery naturally comes from there. I don’t particularly write to create work as I’ve always been writing so the process just developed naturally.
I always have a sketchbook going and I sketch from found photographs, imagination or if I see anything interesting when I’m out and about I’ll quickly sketch. Then to create the composition for the textile pieces I’ll go through my sketchbook and collage different sketches and ideas together to create an image for the narrative I want to convey through the tapestry. Most of the time I sketch the composition on the hessian material and then I use a punch needle to weave the yarn and draw.
The most predominant part of the process is the writing as that’s where everything always starts. The writing is definitely the anchor of the process and then everything else just follows. The most enjoyable part for me is the actual making of the tapestries as I find the process of making very therapeutic and meditative due to the repetitive nature of the technique.
What project has given you the most satisfaction and why?
I’m really enjoying working on the series that I’m currently working on. I started creating work based on club scenes and imagery relating to nightlife and youth culture last December and I definitely want to keep going and further my ideas with that project.
I love the freedom I have with the subject matter as I’m able to create so many different types of imagery within that subject as well as creating smaller portraits and larger compositions of crowds of different people and so on. I love looking at busy artworks where every time you look you see something new, so that’s something I want to achieve when creating busy and larger works within this series.
Could you mention other textiles artists that inspired you?
I’m really inspired by Erin M Riley’s woven tapestries. She creates huge woven tapestries based on her personal experiences and important contemporary themes relating to womanhood. Her work is very diaristic and autobiographical, which of course I’m very inspired by and can relate to but the imagery she creates and the level of detail within her work is insane!
Anya Painstil and Selby HI are also two textile artists that I’m also constantly inspired by. I always find myself being revisiting their works, very inspiring ladies!
Because I have a background in painting, my textile works are very much inspired by painters. I often look at figurative and portraiture paintings for inspiration as although I work with textile materials, I still see my pieces as forms of paintings.
I love Lydia Blakeley’s paintings and her piece “The Pony Club” (2019) is one of my favourite pieces ever. I love the way the figures she paints interacts with each other and the familiarity of the narrative she paints.
Other painters I’ve recently been inspired by as well are Tom White, Harriet Gillett, Seline Burn, Lydia Pettit, Lucas Price and Alice Miller.
What outside visual art informs your practice?
I think it might be an obvious one due to the subject and themes that I work with but I’m very much inspired by nightlife and being in a space with people and music. I’m really inspired by my personal experiences of clubbing and the people I meet when I’m in those spaces but I’m also trying to capture the euphoria and intense emotions that people experience and feel with music, dancing, and being in that environment.
How would you like people to engage with your work?
I hope people look at my work and feel like they can relate to it in some way. I hope that people look at the imagery I create and feel some type of familiarity like they’ve seen that scene before or felt a familiar feeling within their own experiences.