Interview: Brittani George Creates A Unique Brand of Conceptual Expressionism
When as much of the digital experience can feel like plucking our own eyeballs, as a curator it’s so much fun to get lost and find incredible art like that of North Carolina based artist, Brittani George.
Her illustrations coalesce elements with complimentary vibrations while depicting humanity in all its beauty. She casts a queen-like vibe upon her heroines, allowing them to command the space and presence they so rightly deserve.
Inspired by her study of chemistry and physics, as well as an upbringing focused on creating any way she could, her finished pieces convey a sense of her characters existing in a larger cosmic context. It made me think about each one of our role’s in a larger tapestry of energy materialized & personified.
As Brittani states on her about page, “this is my voice.” Her understanding of science, society, and creativity is fused together on one amazing plane, as she indicates a sense of complicated connectivity, one that she reveres and which fuels her.
Scroll down the page to learn more about the conceptual expressionism of Brittani George.
Evan La Ruffa: Your about page says that you absorbed all sorts of art as a kid, like what? What did you gravitate toward most?
Brittani George: Growing up I was in all sorts of lessons from ballet and tap, to gymnastics, piano, violin, even basketball… but I was pretty lazy, and above all, I magnetized towards literature, drawing, and crafts.
Tell us more about how you came to create the art you make currently.
When I first realized that I liked to draw, I loved to mimic life as closely as possible. I drew things exactly as the were, realistic artwork was a fun challenge for me. One day I was painting a still-life study, and as I was staring at my subjects, I began seeing shapes. That’s how I began layering shapes into my work. The next phase was traveling to Sao Paulo, Brasil and living there for six months. It was awe-inspiring… the people, architecture, graffiti, art, the good and weird smells, and even the grit and sadness you would see being in a Metropolitan area. To sum it up that period was a beautiful muse.. when I got home I would practice, and practice.. and practice in my spare time. My art slowly progressed and also became my source of expression and meditation even…
How would you describe your art?
Eclectic, colorful, and geometric.
You also studied Biology and Chemistry in college, how do those subjects influence the way you think about or create your art?
In every way. Because life sciences is about discovering what lies beneath nature and creates life. It opened my subject matter into an infinite realm… so when I’m ready to paint and I see a person, tree, boat, picture, or any sort of muse… I’m really grasping the entire essence of the scene and how it projects on space (or in my case watercolor paper) All of those details somehow show through my work.
For a long time when I was a student, I spent long hours balancing between studying and being social, so I never had time for art. Around my junior year, I had a longing to pick my practice back up, so I began drawing with my class notes, certain biochemical pathways, cellular reactions, whatever helped really. I started thinking of ways I can bring the two subjects together, instead of keeping them in two separate worlds. So my work now has a few botanical and anatomical references… even physics. My goal is that this approach can express a worldly and universal perspective. I like to tell people science is art and art is a science. The more I learn through nature, the more I’m inspired to create.
‘Conceptual expressionism’ … you coined the term, correct? Tell us more about how that came to be.
I totally invented that term. Haha … because I like the words conceptual and expression. Deep, right? I honestly don’t like to label my art, there’s so much pressure to fit into a category, that I’m not sure exists for my work.. but conceptual expressionism was just a cool idea that floated to me one day.
Tell us more about the process of creating these pieces. What materials do yo use & how do they evolve from start to finish?
I rotate between watercolor, pen, ink, marker, and acrylic paint.. I like to start out drawing in pen and from there I layer whichever medium takes fit. It’s all a matter of going with what feels right and looks good.
Most of the people in your work seem to be women from all over the world, with a variety of experiences. They’re beautiful, detailed, yet somehow mysterious. Are they versions of you?
I’ve had a few people say that! Unless it’s a self-portrait, I’m not creating pictures to be me intentionally… but it does seem to happen subconsciously. As a woman, painting women.. I’m going for that unsaid strength and divine nature of femininity, that’s less sexualized and more graced. It’s an attempt for me to counter-act cultural and societal standard of what it looks like to be a meaningful being that has layers beyond the external. I’m slowly creating more works of men too, because the divine nature of masculinity is equally important, and I’d like to see the two forms interact beyond sexuality, negative stereotypes or general emptiness. My biggest joy is when someone see a portrait… and sees their reflection.
You incorporate social and cultural context, like language, maps, and local dress to build out these personas. How has travel, or exploring other cultures influenced you?
I haven’t traveled as much as I’d love to, but when I do.. I make it count. My favorite places to check out when I’m in a new place: museums, national parks, and music venues. I get a higher appreciation for my own heritage when I learn about others. It lets me see the similarities, the differences, the struggles of oppression that vary nation to nation and how the people carry themselves.. it’s inspiring. That’s the sort of emotion that I’d like to suggest through my work… connectivity and insight.
What are you working on now?
So much. This was my first year committing myself to freelance art full-time and so it has def been a journey just experiencing the evolution. In between commissions, I’m developing my portfolio, exhibiting locally, and really just applying myself to make art a tangible career. I’m an emerging artist that’s basically aligning my goals. I’m currently growing the science/research intensive side I’ve learned and combining it to a track of holistic health and art. I see a trend where we, as humans, often see ourselves as separate from nature and inadvertly deprive ourselves from nature’s goodness. I’d like to guide people to the original knowledge of plant medicine, nutrition, and health using art as a tool for engagement and visual learning.
What time of day and with what accompanying beverage do you work most?
Accompanying beverage? Like drink? I work during all hours of the day, like whenever inspiration hits. And I’m all about herbal teas, smoothies, and lemon water.
What has been the hardest part of becoming a working artist?
Finding opportunity. And making a living off those opportunities. Everyone’s an artist, and some people are inclined to feel competitive or cliquey.. others are really supportive though so it’s all in finding the balance.
Are there any mediums you hope to work in in the future?
Eventually… I’d love to animate, I’d love to do installations, and I’d really love to make my art wearable.
Who are a few artists, musicians, or creatives of any stripes that you admire, and why?
Music is a huge part of my life, I listen to a lot of instrumentals, hip-hop, soul, and genre-bending musicians like Iman Omari, Kaytranada, Soulection, Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick, Madlib, Stevie, Amy Winehouse, J*Davey, Hiatus Kaiyote, Mos Def, Al Green, Aretha, Kid Cudi… man its just too much to list! My music is always on shuffle and I’m still leaving out a bunch. I admire the soul and energy they bring, the stories they tell, the emotion they bring… when I hear it I empathize and bring that into my work
In terms of music I like a certain vibe, but with art, I like a certain perspective. I like artists I can relate with… like Frida Kahlo and Basquiat, but I also connect with artists such as James Jean, Erik Jones, Soey Milk… these artists I don’t know too much about personally but their work speaks volumes. Its all breathtaking. And that is motivating.