The interviews are conducted by VB Contemporary's director, Vian Borchert. Besides being a multidisciplinary noted international artist. Borchert has been a writer and art critic for over a decade contributing with art articles in a national online newspaper. Borchert gets called upon to cover and write reviews for major retrospectives and exhibitions in world-class American museums.

Photo of artist Vanessa Mitter
About the artist: Vanessa Mitter is a painter and a performance artist, who lives and works in London. In her paintings and performances, Mitter is interested in interrogating the history, particularly, of expressionist painting and of the gesture. The making is very physical. The canvas is moved around, laid on the floor, then the wall, often remade or scored over, obliterated and then painted over again. Often, paintings are buried underneath other paintings. There is a narrative being referenced, but it is often hidden and autobiographical. Mitter uses layers of paint and collage, overlaid with pen and oil stick. The making is instinctive and accident driven. This tightrope is important - The painting has its own life, and leads the way. Mitter views this as a process of alchemy; a transformative process.
Tell us about your "Beginnings", how did you start your artist journey? How did your childhood influence your creative career path? And, how is your beginnings / childhood "Reflective" within your work? I was always drawing as a child, mainly from observation. It was my own private world, where l could do what l wanted. I would spend hours on end drawing. Before that, as many small children do, l painted a lot. I stopped painting, and spent years on end drawing. I did this in my bedroom, mainly, setting up little scenes with objects and so on. From when l was about four or five, l started to say that l wanted to be an artist. I think that’s because l thought it would just mean l could continue to withdraw into my own private world and do what l wanted to do; unimpeded by any outside directives. A teacher at school was encouraging and put my work in an exhibition. She was a frustrated artist. I remember dragging my mum around the National Gallery in London around the age of ten years old, and nagging her endlessly to buy me art books from the bookshop. I still have one huge tome on late Renaissance painting from that time. I did not really realize it then, but l guess my dad had a real eye for colour. He cared about his ties and his shoes. I remember spending ages going through his silk ties, repeatedly. They all had intricate patterns and beautiful colour combinations. He was very particular, and his shoes were all handmade and leather and lined up carefully in his wardrobe: I would sneak in to look at his shoes and his ties, because l was so interested in what they looked like, and how everything was kept obsessively tidy in neat rows. He was also an extremely keen gardener, and colour really mattered to him. Every single detail of our garden had to be just so. He would work out forms and colours and how they would function together, well before planting. I think it was like a process of alchemy to him. You cook something up. You have a plan, maybe even a recipe, and then you conjure it, and it then becomes this physical thing in the world that other people can experience. l suppose l feel a similar way about painting, although making it can be an intensely private experience. There was a rockery in the front garden where l was a growing up. This was a thing of wonder to me. My brother and I would jump from rock to rock, or we would have friends around, and play games of who could jump furthest and so on. It was a vast rockery, and l was impressed by the dedication my dad showed in tending to it endlessly, nurturing every tiny or large rockery plant. Many years later, l visited Kyoto in Japan, and the Zen gardens reminded me of the rockery I had grown up with. There was a sense of devotion in the tending to it. So many hours went in to it. I can relate to that in terms of making art. My dad was a chef, so l was surrounded by people from the catering world as a child. They were often quite irreverent, and liked to swear a lot in the kitchens. That made an impression on me at a young age. It was a man’s world. There were no women in it. My mother loved cooking and was a pianist. I remember sitting under the baby grand piano as a very small child, marveling at the vibrations from my mum playing Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu, which l loved. I think that all of my early childhood experiences, both positive and negative, shaped an acute sense of the aesthetic possibilities of the world. My dad used to say to me, when l was a child, “your eyes are bigger than your tummy”. What he meant by this is that l thought, when l saw food that looked particularly appealing, that l could eat all of it. However, l would get full up fast and then not want to eat all of it, and l would consequently waste it. I did have this kind of visual greed and still do; a need to gobble up aesthetic experiences. My paintings play with ideas of excess; how much is too much? I like to teeter on the edge of overdoing it to the point where the paint just slides off completely, and you’re left with nothing, just a slimy trail like a snail. It is at this point where, seemingly, everything is going wrong with a painting that, if you can hold your nerve, it might get really exciting. You might actually make something worth making. You’re in the territory of the trickster and the charlatan really. As a child and now, as an adult, I really notice what people wear, and l grew up caring a lot about clothes. Details also mattered a lot to me; accessories, colours, how everything worked together. Putting together an outfit really mattered to me as a child, and it still does to this day. It was something quite innate. I started to subscribe to Vogue magazine at the age of twelve or thirteen. I was obsessed. I knew the names of fashion photographers, the models; the designers. I would spend hours on end in my teens poring over these images. I longed to be in this world that seemed exotic and exciting to me. I really noticed the composition of each photograph; how each element worked together. I would then draw my own versions of the images and would often use collage too. The first artists l really had exposure to, (as is often the case) were probably the Fauvists and Van Gogh. I guess the colour rubbed off on me.
Image of artwork On Fertile Ground: Ghosts
Walk us through your day from morning till evening along with your creative process? What does a day for "Vanessa Mitter" look like? Where do you find inspiration in the area by which you reside? And, What does "Spring" mean to you? Let us know what is your favorite flower or plant? On the days that l am in my studio, l try to keep things as if they are new. I like a sense of risk; of finding out things for the first time. I prefer to try at least one new thing, rather than stick with what l know. I do not like formulas. My studio is in Hackney Wick. My paintings usually start with a process of considering colour above anything else. From one colour or two, an image grows. Instinct and accident are very important in my practice. I have a small front garden. To me, spring is the start of a new year; not January. I have a tree that flowers this insane bubblegum pink colour, and the pink seems to get more intense every year. I have: camellia, tulips, pansies, daffodils, bluebells, almost black tulips and white tulips, jasmine that smells glorious and clematis. The best of all are the peonies that just get better every year: ones that start an intense pink and turn to champagne, others that are the palest pink and cream ones.
As an artist, what have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced in your career? And, what have been your best achievements for you personally and professionally? Who are your favorite artists and why do you find their art captivating? Painting is everywhere now: anyone can paint how they want to, or that’s my perception. Art students have limitless possibilities. There is a sense of freedom now, or seems to be. That was not the case when l was on my BA in Fine Art: Painting at Central St Martins. It was contested ground. I barely knew any painters. Art students were turning their backs on painting in their droves. It was a challenge to keep believing that it was worth continuing to paint in the face of constant questioning and criticism. One of the ways l considered those challenges was by making performances, which have often been visceral, involving liquids, flour, egg, all sorts. They are also on the edge of slapstick, as well as being seemingly deadly serious. I have always suffered from doubt. Sometimes, l have experienced crippling self-doubt for very long periods of time: I have stopped painting. It is hard to keep going sometimes. I always seem to return to it, though. My own view is that somebody who paints with wild abandon, without questioning it, is probably not making very interesting work. So, maybe in the end, my initial experiences as a student were ultimately valuable: I don’t know. I think that what l consider to be a few achievements are being selected for the Mother Art Prize, 2018 and exhibiting (for the prize) at Mimosa House (then in Mayfair, London) in 2019, and being selected for the Mark Rothko Artist-in-Residence award in 2022. I was also shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize in 2022, and longlisted for the same prize in 2023. I was longlisted for the Waverton Art Prize in 2022, and for the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize in 2017, and the exhibition took place at Kings Place, London through Piano Nobile Gallery. I set up a feminist international art collective called Lala in 2018 with the artist, Paige Perkins. I curated our first exhibition in Austria in October to November 2023 at the Künstlerhaus, Bregenz, Lake Constance. My influences are diverse. I am interested in beauty, but also resist it. So, l am drawn to the work of Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko and Maria Lassnig. I always return to Matisse and Soutine. In terms of artists working today, l find the following interesting: Jutta Koether, a young German painter called Babette Semmer, David Harrison, Paige Perkins (l often feel as if l am in dialogue with her, in terms of us being able to really talk about painting. Peers are so important too). Another German painter l was on Chelsea College MA Fine Art with called Christiane Bergelt, who is also in the art collective, Amy Sillman and Martha Jungwirth. I recently saw the Don Van Vliet show at Michael Werner Gallery, and it was extremely exciting, in that way that painting can always be remade; made anew. Seeing something like that just makes me want to pick up a paintbrush.
Instagram: @vanessamitter Website: