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In Conversation | Rose Electra Harris

In Conversation | Rose Electra Harris

Rose Electra Harris is a London-based painter and printmaker inspired by nature. Recently, she’s been working on enormous canvases to create vibrant and textured expressionist paintings of flowers and interior scenes. Folk have been lucky enough to collaborate with her on some of the prints from our most recent SS24 women's collection. We managed to sit down with her during the opening week of her ongoing exhibition to talk colours, process, and the benefits of having a room of one’s own.  

So Rose, what's your practise? How do you begin to think about a piece or a project?  

I draw a lot of inspiration from nature and plants. In March- April of last year I went and I did a residency in Mexico City and had a solo exhibition there. Just being in a different environment was really inspiring; seeing plant life from a different kind of climate. I take lots of photographs, so my initial source material is pretty literal but then when I transfer what I see onto canvas, it becomes more about my way of producing it; how I choose to apply the paint by scraping it away, layering things or the colours I use. I never want things to look exactly like how I've seen them.  

Colour seems to be important in your work. Can you talk to me a bit about why you choose such vibrant shades to express yourself? 

Well, I studied printmaking and etching at art school. The tutors that I had were pretty traditional in the sense that they would only encourage us to use black ink. That meant lots of the prints would turn out very dark and that never resonated with me. I've just always loved really bold colours. There's no technical approach to my use of colour, it's very instinctual. And it doesn't always work. That’s what I like about the process: that as you paint, you’re combining colours so that their position on the canvas organically develops as their relationship to one another changes. 

What is the most exciting thing about what you do? 

Coming into my studio every day and it being my space full of things that I've created or am creating; things that inspire me or that I’ve collected. I find that so exciting. Every time I come in; I feel a weight being lifted. In the evenings I always put off leaving because I just love being in this space. I was back in here the day after my exhibition opened. I think also, 80% of the time, working this way feels like a battle. Mostly I’m thinking to myself ‘Oh God, what am I doing?’. But then I hit that breakthrough moment when the doubt and uncertainty fall away. And that is the best feeling ever, it’s why I keep doing this. I’m lucky that I get to experience that.   

How did you come to work with Folk and why do you think you complement each other? 

I've always been a big fan of Folk, even before I met Cathal. I really like its balance of simplicity and creative integrity. The quality of the materials used is always amazing, so I think they’re consistent but in the best way. Folk has a very distinctive personality, but it also takes risks which I like and resonate with.  

Do you have a favourite garment from the new collection that you've made together?  

The thing I’ve worn most so far is the blue jumper, just because it’s still been pretty cold. I love that the front is very simple but that the back is so bold and three-dimensional with the embroidery, much like some of the textures on my paintings. I'm also really looking forward to wearing the shirt and short set when it’s a bit warmer. I generally like to dress in a lot of colour so that’s something I’ll be wearing a lot. I really like the way they’ve set about taking inspiration from my piece to make the print.  

You mentioned that you've already been back in the studio. Do you have a sense of what might be next for you?  

I don't have anything planned at the moment. It’s always quite disconcerting when you’ve been working towards something for ages like a show- it’s a bit of a relief when it’s over but then the question dawns on you: ‘What’s next?!.” I'm trying to challenge myself a bit more. I’ve been working on some old paintings like this one *points to an enormous canvas propped against the wall*. This is probably eight or so paintings which I’ve just painted over because I couldn’t get it right. I’m terrible at throwing anything away and I never paint something over in white to start again. I try to use the history of the painting to make something new. We’ll see where that takes me next.  

Thank you Rose!


Find out more about Rose Electra Harris here:

You can see her solo exhibition on at the Union Gallery, Bethnal Green (on until 30th March).

(Words Elsa Pearl. Portrait of Rose courtesy of Issy Croker)


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