Samantha draws inspiration from her surroundings. Living in the affectionately dubbed “Garden City”, her work is her abstract take on the buildings and the lush, tropical greenery of Singapore.
Playing host to visiting family and friends and showing them the sights of Singapore has surfaced her passion for skylines, and the interplay between the built environment and the natural environment. “Here, the jungle is always just being kept at bay and can creep in at any moment. I love that.”
Using a combination of gestural, impulsive movements, layering and detailed work, Samantha has a style that is all her own.
Read on to learn more about abstract expressionist painter, Samantha Redfern.
What inspired you to become an artist?
My father is an engineer professionally but has always produced the most amazing photo-realistic drawings and paintings. I haven’t inherited his skill in terms of photorealism, but I have inherited his passion for art. Growing up, we had art literature full of outstanding and inspiring artworks.
One of my earliest memories of pre-school is being asked to paint a picture of the weather. I remember receiving praise from the teacher, how I’d done such a lovely job, and I think that gave me the confidence to carry on.
I have always been passionate about art and English. But I knew I wanted to do my degree in art. I’ve always loved the freedom of creating. Now I am finally putting my Fine Art degree to good use. My parents are delighted. Although I had a part-time job, it was them that kept me in art supplies and canvases.
What are the most fascinating aspects of ‘city’ that became your inspiration?
It’s interesting because I find my love of the city and my love of nature conflict. I find it hard to know that every time we expand or build, it’s at the cost of nature. At the same time, I love the city because I enjoy people watching. Just sitting and watching the world go by. I love to walk down Orchard Road (the central shopping belt in Singapore) and feel part of the iconic surroundings and history. But I also need to escape to the jungle to get in touch with nature and absorb the quiet.
Growing up, we lived just across from an enormous expanse of woodland. As a child, my parents would take us there, and we’d play in all the seasons. As an adult, I would take my beloved dogs and eventually my children to Caesar’s Camp (an old Roman fort) and find peace hunting for conkers or watching squirrels burying acorns.
Through my paintings, I am trying to find a harmony between nature and city, just in the way Singapore does. Singapore is so green and beautiful. Everywhere you look there are beautiful plants. It is a balance, and it needs to keep its green lungs to keep the air safe for its inhabitants.
For creativity reasons, some artists use tools or mediums in a different way than intended. Is there a particular tool or media that you prefer to use differently?
I’m not sure I do anything particularly profound with the media I use. But I do try to use it in multiple ways. I paint in acrylic, and I use it mixed heavily with water to create washes, I also use heavy body acrylics, and I mix paints with mediums to increase their transparency. I use brushes, pencils, a straw from Starbucks and my hands to apply and blend in some paintings.
I discovered acrylic inks recently, and I often apply them straight from the pipette to the canvas and let gravity control the drip, or I’ll intervene and blend the colour with the colours already occupying the space.
I want to experiment more with texture and mixed media in future works.
Who are your top 2 favourite artists? What’s in their style that captures you?
That is a tough question because I don’t so much have a favourite artist. I am pretty fickle because I think I like someone enough to commit them to the status of favourite artist and then my head gets turned. I’m like a kid in a candy store.
When I went to Rome, I was amazed by the works I saw by artists such a Michelangelo and Raphael. Although the style and subject matter is worlds away from my own, the artwork is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s stays with you.
Ansel Adams was a huge inspiration to me. His composition of the landscape with the surrounding trees perhaps has influenced the design of my work. I spent much of my degree taking photos and developing them myself.
One of the exhibitions that stays with me the most in recent times is the one by Yayoi Kusama. The vibrant colours and boldness of the works I found so inspiring and energising. I bought one of her pumpkins from an art gallery when I was exhibiting in Taiwan. The gallery owner would buy them when he visited Japan and bring them back.
Why is your art process so unique? What determines your artwork is ready to sell?
Unique is a very strong word. Especially in the art world. You try your best to produce from your heart, but how do I know my art is unique? With all artists, song writers, composers, novel writers etc. we are all trying to bring something new to the world. Sometimes there will be crossovers or similarities. It’s inevitable I suppose.
I do know, however, that my work is very spontaneous. I could never copy a piece of my work. I often think how will I produce another when I can’t remember how I created this one. I use many layers and a mixture of matt, gloss and metallic paints so that from each angle of light, you see something different. I love details. I once was told my work was too busy, but I love it being that way. I love a painting you can keep staring at or notice something new.
I will display my work around the house and live with it for a while. If I can’t see any room for improvement, I’ll know it’s done. If it’s just not singing to me, I’ll continue to work on it. As an artist, there is that ever lingering dread we’ll overwork a painting and ruin it. So you need to learn when to let it be.