Roaming with Serena Curmi

According to Plan © Serena CurmiSerena Curmi’s paintings have a curious, nostalgic feel to them – it’s as though I’ve have seen them before, perhaps in my childhood, or someone else’s. She’s illustrating the Russian faerytales I was never told. I love the snowy, misty landscapes and uncanny encounters between girls and forest creatures, especially the way the wolf is just lurking in the background in the piece above. Friend or foe?

And yet, she says, her creative awakenings began as a merchild – or rather, as a small child roaming a sailing boat.

“I’ve always been a creative person of some description,” she says. “I grew up on a sailboat and I think being creative was an outlet for me during the many boring days at sea in a confined space with three other people. I was always coming up with great ideas that I would daydream about. Once I tried to make my own perfume by gathering a very small amount of rose petals together in a jar and adding some cooking oil. Needless to say it turned into a soggy mess.”

Brilliantly, on recalling this she adds: “I improved a little and went on to do a degree in Illustration at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall.”

The first piece of art she remembers being proud of was “painting a picture of Minnie the Minx on the back of a white 80s cotton jacket that I was pretty pleased with” when she was aged about seven.

Today she draws inspiration from online sources including Pinterest. “I’m addicted. It’s a great tool for finding and compiling images. I look at a lot of surreal fashion photography actually, probably more than the work of other painters. But sometimes it’s something completely uncreative that sparks something in me. The other week I took a trip to Bethlem Royal Hospital (otherwise known as Bedlam) which I found incredibly inspiring.”

Italian Bathers © Serena CurmiIt’s true that her work exudes a sense of the unsettled and uncanny, but also, as her name befits, a great deal of serenity.

“I have quite a minimalist approach to life,” she tells me. “I don’t like clutter and I think this reflects in my paintings. My work is concerned with storytelling with a touch of the fairytale. Through a restrained technique, I try to focus the attention onto only the important elements in the painting which I hope helps to create a narrative which is sometimes peaceful and still, sometimes melancholy, and sometimes provoking a sense of unease of apprehension.”

Queen © Serena Curmi

And this ongoing narrative is evolving all the time, “which means that in a year or so, it might have gone a slightly different direction. I am getting very interested in social behaviours and norms (hence the trip to Bethlem) so I see my work going more towards this kind of thing in the future.”

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