An artist driven by movement, shape and color, Stevie Dix makes paintings that brim with creative energy and freedom. Dix has always looked to art as emotional release, from her youth in a creatively liberated household in Belgium to her studio in Suffolk. And the emotional charge within each of her works is visible. For Dix, true and honest painting represents her interiority, visible through her work’s complications and contradictions. Inspired by blank canvas and fresh paint, Dix allows her mind to lead her work, resulting in vivid, animated abstract paintings with thick, clear brushwork and constant tension.
Dix isn’t shy about putting her emotions into her paintings – after all, other artists’ work hits her equally hard. Through colors and shapes that hold meaning to her, Dix’s work is visceral and honest.
We spoke with Dix about the vitality and tension of her work, her use of Instagram as a portfolio and what’s coming next in her career.
AMM: How did your upbringing lead to your pursuit of art as a career?
SD: I grew up in a pretty free household. We were encouraged to draw, paint, play music and rules didn’t really exist. Regardless of my parents really struggling with money there was no pressure to do well in school and apply to university as long as all of us were happy, inquisitive and learning something interesting in our own time. When I was a child I didn’t think my upbringing was odd but looking back as an adult and comparing situations I definitely think it was eccentric on some levels. It gave me the freedom that comes with believing that existing outside of the norm is okay. And for me that resulted in feeling like being fulfilled creatively was more important than anything else. I’m sure it could have also had the opposite effect though.
AMM: Tell us a bit about what characterizes your work. How would you describe it?
SD: I try to achieve movement. I want shapes and colours to hold such tension they tremble and bounce off each other and almost look animated. I’m really picky when it comes to paint application and I need it to look a certain way. It has to be thick and visceral and you need to see clear brushwork. I think they’re really subjective and heavily loaded with ‘me’. I feel they’re romantic and emotional, but I’ve heard them described as dark and comical too. My friend told me my work is full of juxtapositions, two opposites pulling in their own direction. Which aids the idea that there is constant tension and movement. I like that way of describing my work.
AMM: What is your creative process? What’s going through your mind as you work?
SD: The artists who work in the same building would probably say I’m fairly unapproachable when I’m painting and they have to catch me on breaks. That’s not to say I don’t absolutely love it and I skip and whistle on my way to the studio every day – it is my happy place. But a very private, emotional release was my only reason for painting before I realised it could be a job, so tapping into that state is the way I still work most honestly. These days I have found a way to be more pragmatic about it; I work out ideas more carefully and it’s much more deliberate.
AMM: Your work is very emotive. What do you hope viewers gain from, or feel when they view it?
SD: Paintings really hit me hard sometimes, other people’s work I mean. They always have done. And it’s helped me understand things and has helped me feel human. So I think that’s ultimately why I make stuff public after the process of making them has served its purpose for myself. If the hard work and emotion that went into it translated well that would be great, but if they just thought it looked great above their bed I can relate to that too – I’m fine with that.
AMM: As an abstract painter, where do the ideas for your work come from? Do you have specific thoughts or concepts you want to communicate through your work?
SD: I started as an abstract painter but now I use hints of forms and shapes. I don’t usually sit with an idea of a concept; the composition tends to lead the work. I think either way, my mind bleeds into it pretty automatically and the compositions I draw up seem to mirror my state of mind whether I try or not. The recurring shapes I use hold a lot of specific meaning to me so their place on the canvas and their size and colours play with the tension of their own meanings, just as the abstract fields used to do.
AMM: Though your art is mostly abstract, there are some figurative elements. How do you decide what form your artwork will take on and what elements will appear in it?
SD: Being totally honest I feel most inspired by looking at an empty canvas and a stack of fresh paint tubes. At some point you have to trust this is something you’ve been doing for a while, be familiar with your own capabilities and rely on your mind to be able to construct and deconstruct a composition until it just feels right.
AMM: Recently you had shows in Mallorca and one in New York. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
SD: I showed a piece in a group show called 20cm From the Ground in Mallorca at L21 Gallery. I really like their program and history of shows. Martin Lukac, Rafa Forteza, Rasmus Nilausen are some great artists they’ve shown and I am looking forward to working with them more in 2018. In New York I did a small solo show at Tennis Elbow, which is the sister space of the Journal Gallery. They do weekly presentations and have a slightly alternative way of working to some galleries out there. Again, they have shown some great artists like Joakim Ojanen, Odessa Straub, Bruce M. Sherman and Jesse Littlefield, which I’m really honoured to be in a line up with. I’m really excited to be showing there for my first New York show. I made the work for it whilst on residency in Los Angeles and I think the pieces are a little bit different from my usual stuff.
AMM: Your art is largely displayed on Instagram. How has the social media age changed the way you present your work to the world?
SD: I’m not sure what life as an artist would be like without social media because I had Instagram before I started seriously painting. I used to post some work I made on social media but this was very much for family and friends. It had nothing to do with ‘the art world’, or dreams of a ‘career’. I think I was even unaware back then that the art world, more specifically the one that focuses on contemporary painting, existed in the form that I now know it does. But the more I started using Instagram as a portfolio, the more other artists found me and I found them. I think galleries and curators follow quite organically after that.
I never had to go through the process of e-mailing round my portfolio or going to private views to try to network. I don’t think I could do it. I moved away from London when I was 25 to try to be in the studio full time, surrounded by nothing but my own practice, my dog and my fella. And I guess social media has allowed me to live like this.
AMM: Who or what are your biggest artistic influences?
SD: My husband Thom Trojanowski is a big influence on me because he’s the most dedicated painter I’ve ever known. Whatever the weather or the mood, he’s in the studio and when he’s physically not able to be there he paints in his head or is sewing a costume together for a character he’s made up, or he’s ordering 20 kilos of bright yellow pebbles on eBay to make an installation that I’m not sure he’ll ever even make. It’s what made me fall in love with him and it rubs off.
My early influences were probably my most obsessive, and sadly they were dominated by my art teachers at the time and they included an embarrassing lack of women. I remember being taught about Louise Bourgeois in school and thinking I’d make sculpture and installation based work. Pierre Alechinsky and Rene Magritte were a big thing for me growing up in Belgium. I’m a big fan of Niki De Saint Phalle and discovering AbEx artists like Lee Krasner really kicked things off for me into a different direction.
But there are so many artists that are active now, people I’m exhibiting alongside that push the boat out. I think the biggest inspiration is the feeling of being in this current movement of really exciting painting. It makes me feel inspired to work.
AMM: What’s coming next in your career? Any upcoming projects?
SD: I’ve got two solo shows confirmed in 2018. I’m not sure if I can give them away before the galleries release their program, but I’m really excited for both of them as both are with galleries that I feel are really supportive and they get where my work is going. I’ve also got a few group shows coming up in The Netherlands and in Belgium and am working towards co-curating a three person show in London.
Find out more about the artist: steviedix.com
Text and interview by Maya Chung for ArtMaze Mag.