Harriet Zanna Gillett
b. 1995, UK
Harriet Gillett is a London-based painter and printmaker whose colourful and fluid works explore aspects of contradiction within memory and nostalgia and offer an element of escapism. Gillett currently lives and works in London, UK.
Harriet Gillett grew up in East Yorkshire and received her Graduate Diploma in Fine Art at the City and Guilds of London Arts School in 2021, after graduating from the Edinburgh University in 2017 with a BA in English Literature. Working from a combination of observational drawing and imagination, Gillett creates composite imagery rooted in personal experience and takes further inspiration from literature, music, folklore, and art history. She employs various materials and processes, often bringing together seemingly opposing elements to playfully blur the lines between the traditional or the contemporary, abstraction and figuration, dream or reality.
Gillett was recently shortlisted for the Ingram prize and exhibited work across London and online, including Purslane Art and Unit 1 Gallery Workshop.
Tell me about yourself and what motivates you to become an artist?
I have always loved making things, and this passion has steadily grown into my current practice. I work across different media, such as painting, print-making, and designing. I feel like each practice informs the other. My interest in narrative and language has really influenced my approach to making work.
The main thing that motivates me to become an artist professionally is that I love learning. By being an artist, you are free to deepen and expand your knowledge and practice. This experience prevents me from plateauing like I have whilst working other conventional jobs. I like how I am fully in control of my work and can create my own opportunities. My practice has become a constant in my life and made entirely on my own terms.
What inspires you?
Intimacy and emotion. Memories, stories, and songs. The natural world, or just life in general. I think it is less about the subject and more about the way it is painted.
Tell me about the meaning behind your work?
My work surrounds the theme of escapism. I like to see the picture plane as a place to envisage dreams or alter what exists.
I do not try to represent a thing in my work, but more of a feeling. Each piece is based on drawings I have made from observation or memory, so the work is grounded in my own personal experience. Through my creative process, I hope my works can become somewhat more universal and open for others to read their own emotions and narratives into them. I want to question the simple process of categorisation by allowing multiple perspectives to existing within one image. Therefore, enabling a more open-ended interpretation of my work.
What is your collaboration with the House of Glaze about?
My current body of work is born out of an interest in the relationship between myths and nature, as well as symbolism within folklore and romance. They are based on poems and my personal memories. I combine different media to create layered and fluid effects to reflect the process of reliving memories and how the process changes our perception of past moments. My collaborative work all reflects an element of nostalgia and desire for intimacy, as they were made during the pandemic.
“First Glow” draws specific inspiration from the poem “Mushrooms” by Sylvia Plath.
Harriet Gillett in her studio.