Artist on File: Henriette Busch: Painter & Digital Artist
This month I met German-born artist Henriette Busch in her St Albans garden studio. Henriette revels in creating and combining images mixing diverse media such as paint, photography and digital.
To me these pieces feel like the bewitching imagination of dreams; real enough to recognise a familiar scene, but overlaid with vivid colours. They have an otherworldly feeling, like visions from another dimension. The works represent memories of homes and places that are special to the artist.
‘I explore the relationship between the reality of the place or object and the imagined reality, in order to transform often quite ordinary images so that they become exotic and mysterious. I try to create an illusion, a feeling of heightened awareness in my images which in their final version often bear no resemblance to the original but have become enhanced and imbued with a dreamlike quality.’ Two wonderful examples of this are ‘Fields at Harvest Time’ and ‘Field in Moonlight’.
I love a mixed media painting called ‘Source of the Nile’.Even before I saw the original I fell for its charms. The blues and greens are satisfyingly rich, and the perspectives invite your eyes to examine the sweeping lines of the landscape.
Henriette was born in Berlin and says that art has been a lifelong love. ‘I was always drawing as a child but it has taken me many years to get into a position to be able to take up art seriously.’ I think art must be an inherited passion as she has childhood memories of her artist Father, Eddy Smith; he sadly died when she was only three. ‘I have clear memories of watching him work and of his art materials all over the house. He was a German artist of English extraction and was known for his powerful, subversive copper-etchings and portraits of Berlin society figures in pre-and post-war Germany.’ A great deal of her Father’s work has been passed down to Henriette, so much so that she has organised two retrospectives of it in Berlin, where he lived and worked. The first exhibition was in March 2001, and the latest one was in the same gallery, Galerie Taube, Berlin in September and November 2013. (www.galerie-taube.de)
Her Mother eventually remarried and the family relocated to Liberia in West Africa, where Henriette went to school. Travel has factored highly in Henriette’s life; she has lived in Africa, North and South America, as well as in Europe. After meeting her Husband, his career took them to South America, the United States and back to West Africa.
Whilst living in Paramaribo, Suriname, Henriette took classes at the Academy of Fine Arts. Then in the 1980s the family returned to settle in England to send their son to school. She began working for an American company as a software sales executive, but during this period Henriette also took an array of evening, extra-mural and summer courses. She says: ‘I explored life drawing, enamelling, sculpture, ceramics, print making and textile design. I always knew that I wanted more, but it wasn’t until 1999 that I finally took the plunge and quit my high-pressured job to enrol in a full-time one year foundation course in Art and Design at the University of Hertfordshire. I found the experience a revelation. It was exciting and exhilarating; University opened my eyes to beauty I would have dismissed before, it was like learning how to see again. It opened so many doors and possibilities for me that I hadn't even known existed that I decided to embark upon a part-time BA Hons, Fine Arts Degree at UH.’
Two other pieces I admired that combine painting and photography have special recollections and meanings for the artist. One is of their family home in Liberia called ‘Old House’ and the other, ‘No Entrance’, depicts a villa in the Italian part of Switzerland where Henriette spent holidays visiting her Father’s sister when young.
She talks about the two pieces; ‘I loved our house in Liberia; there are so many happy memories of our time there. Many years later we went back and it was quite sad to see that the building had fallen into disrepair. The house had been ransacked because there had been a lot of political unrest and also there's a lot of poverty so squatters had moved in. I created the work called ‘No Entrance’ because I was feeling wistful for my childhood memory of staying there. It has the title because when my father’s sister died, and my uncle remarried, I was no longer able to stay there. All the places I lived and travelled to, left so many memories in my head, so many colours and impressions without even realising this, until much later when it all came out in my pictures.’
There is also another aspect to Henriette’s work; that of her abstract oil and mixed media paintings. I felt an impelling attraction to a piece called ‘Light Blue Light’. I am drawn to the alluring layers of colour and texture which gives movement to the piece.
Other great examples of her abstract work are ‘Sweet & Low’ and ‘Blue Harbours’.
I asked Henriette who her favourite artists were: ‘I am drawn to artists who use juicy and beautiful colours like Richard Diebenkorn.I rediscovered his landscapes that are figurative and very expressive. Pierre Bonnard is another artist I like because of his use vibrant colour. I also love Rothko, Warhol and the contemporary artists Peter Doig and Mark Surridge amongst many others!’.
Henriette has been exhibiting her work since 2003 and has taken part in our Open Studios event for the first time this year. She also decided to build a studio in her back garden. ‘It’s wonderful to have a purpose built space to use and hang my work. I have had a fantastic Open Studio this year; I think it’s important to have a good selection of smaller works to offer, as these have sold extremely well. Some of my larger works have also been requested and clients are due to collect them.’
If you would like to visit Henriette’s studio to see more of her work, please contact her on:
T: 07711 837051
By CLARE KENDAL BATE