Behind The Collaboration / Clare Wigney





Painter Clare Wigney brings an indisputable bolt of energy, alongside a distinct aesthetic point of view, to our Resort 22 collection. Reimagining the floral motif by taking the ordinary - a type of daisy she passes on her street everyday - and morphing it into the extraordinary through manipulation, playing with scale and angles, brush marks and repetition, she reinvents the genre. The resulting print designs are translated onto key Lee Mathews shapes - the shirt dress and pyjama sets – giving them a new vitality that pushes traditional florals aside. With a passion for colour, right down to her socks, Clare believes in its transformative power. "It feels weird and a bit humorous having a stressful or serious day and sporting bright and loud clothes," she says.

What was your trajectory to being an artist?

I often think about Marina Abramovic in her interview ‘advice to the young’ when discussing the question of 'how do you know when you can call yourself an artist?' She explained that you just wake up in the morning and you have ideas, and you have an urge to create, and it becomes almost obsessive, and you need to make things. It’s not a choice just a compulsion. I think I have always felt this way, and it has manifested in many different forms over my entire life. When I was younger I was obsessed with drawing and making stories and comic books, then home videos and collecting cameras and taking pictures. I became obsessed with painting in high school and was lucky enough to study it at art school.

Colour is key to your work but very much overlaid with graphics and existing, manipulated imagery - how did you find the shift to the decorative nature of textile design?

The shift was really cool and interesting. My focus was less on a balanced and total composition, like in a painting, and more on the repetition of images and shapes. I found myself using simple forms and images that lose their structure or visual information and can lapse into abstract shapes and pattern.

I love the that you and Lee share an interest in mid-century American artists such as the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein’s and the minimalist sculptures of Anne Truitt. Was it encouraging that you are both drawn to these influences?

Very encouraging. We have a mutual understanding and appreciation of the values and aesthetics of art and artists within that realm and so we could share a vision for the collection. Bold colour blocks, graphics and text, the repetition of simple shapes and forms - I think all these things make their way into the garments. It’s exciting to see how unique and strong designs can stem from the influence of radical and subversive art.

Lee Mathews as a brand is known for its floral prints. How did you apply your lens to nature to find the right expression?

Nature and the natural realm can sometimes feel like an impossible or impenetrable subject because of its expanse, overwhelming wonder and divinity. To me the image of a single flower can act as an allegory or a microcosmic symbol, a simple reference to the ineffable beauty of the world. My practice is concerned with the idea of the hieroglyph - finite and infinite- and the ability of the micro to describe and allude to the macro. And so, the blown-up and reduced flower image seemed like the most exciting direction.

The forms of the clothes are simple – unisex shapes - such as the shirt dress and pyjama sets. Did you take these shapes into account when creating the fabric designs?

It’s interesting how floral patterns are often associated with the ultra-feminine. I believe Lee Mathews’ clothing and collections have always achieved a genuine fluidity between masculine and feminine, regardless of the style or print. I have known this and found I could be very free and playful with my drawings and paintings knowing they would take on many forms, many colours and be worn by many different kinds of people.

Your chosen palette brings an immense charge of energy with your preference for ready- made colour - straight from the tube. How do you imagine people would feel in the clothes?

Energy is definitely the key word. That is the main thing that I hope carries through to the wearers of the clothes. The palette is exciting and strong.

Are you a bright or a sombre person when it comes to dressing? What is your go to vibe?

I truly think the colours you wear are a reflection of mood. It feels weird and a bit humorous having a stressful or serious day and sporting bright and loud clothes. Generally, though, my wardrobe is so colourful. I love graphics, text, pictures, pattern and prints, art on clothes. It’s fun to combine colours, right down to the colour of my socks as it can impact the way you move through the world and how you feel. I love durable and good quality fabrics like canvas, cotton and denim - so my go to vibe is always a pair of Lee Mathews pants. My favourite pair is an old sample - orange rust coloured drill pants with white contrast stitching. I am very precious about them.

Did you learn anything through this process that you can apply back into your main art practice?

It’s funny because I am often hesitant to repeat images across paintings or even within a work. The process of applying and shaping a painting or a drawing to several styles and garments, shifting around colours and scale, has been a good reminder to loosen up and be more experimental - something I am trying to remind myself of all the time.

How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

1/ Curious

2/ Off-with-the-fairies (that’s 5 words right)

Is this the start of a new direction for you, or a lovely creative side-track?

Both, in a way. The timing has been strangely perfect with working on this collection with Lee. At the same time this past year I’ve been working on a big series of paintings for my show at China Heights with Gabriella Lo Presti. Both projects, while vastly different, saw lots of trial and error, painterliness and saturated colours. From the successes and the failures, I feel satisfied and proud of the work, so am ready to take off now into new directions, experiment and explore new ways of expressing.

How does art and colour feature in your home?

I have accumulated quite a lot of art since studying at art school. It’s been cool collecting works from friends over the years and trading paintings or retrieving people’s discarded experiments. I also love finding art in junk shops or even on the street. So, the walls in my house are pretty covered in art and I love it that way. In an ideal world every inch of wall space could be occupied by an artwork and I think I’m probably on that track. So naturally there is a lot of colour, and it’s fun to curate the house like a gallery or show, rearranging every few months to see new colour combinations and energies.

Photography & Film: Matilda Mathews