"Screen Memory" - Julie Moss Interview

By Javier Melian - Chrom-Art co-founder

Julie Moss photographed by Emma Zarifi
Julie Moss photographed by Emma Zarifi

“Screen Memory”: a term used by Sigmund Freud to describe a process that involves a recollection of early childhood that may be falsely recalled or magnified in importance, one that perhaps masks another memory of deep emotional significance.

I recently visited The Other Art Fair in London, as I browsed the corridors after meeting some of my artist friends that were exhibiting, I walked along and was taken aback by a painting; a Helter Skelter deep within a jungle like forest, I had a strange but pleasant sensation, something like a déjà-vu. It was like my brain was trying to trace back an old memory, but surrendering to just admitting its familiarity.  

The artist, Julie Moss, told me that the Helter Skelter was an image from Blackpool and the background were recollections of forests in the many countries she has visited in Asia, Australia and the Caribbean.

Julie lives and works from a studio in her garden, overlooking the stunning Cornish tides. When Julie travels she carries various sketchbooks, once back home, she starts new paintings based on recollection, assembling pieces together, melting them in total harmony.  

Although Moss's paintings reflect the moments of deep peace after natural phenomena like hurricanes and typhoons, her work is an outpouring of calm and balance, and a deep white light. Julie tells me that she also likes using neon colours, as their artificiality makes her otherwise natural images look dreamlike.  

I think it was the oneiric quality of all her paintings, and that untraceable connection that they triggered, that made me appreciate and enjoy Moss's work so much. I certainly didn't forget to find her details and contact her for this interview, as I knew that Chrom-Art's friends would really love her work too.  

Julie Moss is a fine art painter living and working in Cornwall. She grew up in Lancashire and attended Bolton school of Art from the age of 13. Julie studied part time for a B.A. In fine Art whilst raising three children and working in a speciality inks business which she and her husband started in 1992.  

Since graduating from Falmouth University in 2011, Moss has been showing her work regularly in Cornwall, London and other parts of the southwest. She has exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, and last year she was finalist in the Tribe prize at Edgar Modern Gallery in Bath. This year one of her paintings was selected for the Windsor and Newton painting prize at the Griffin Gallery London. 

When and why did you start exploring the Freudian notion of "Screen Memory"?

Since I was a young child I have been fascinated with uncovering things, whether it was digging in my grandma’s garden, trying to find buried treasure or collecting shells and foreign stamps in the hope of one day visiting the places that I dreamt of.

I find that I am drawn to certain landscapes, usually fairly distant inaccessible places, once there I return again and again with my sketch book and camera, trying perhaps to recover something that I feel has been lost or hidden in the hope of bringing it to light. I found that it was often an initial feeling of fear or loss that drew me to certain areas and acted as an emotional trigger for my paintings, which led me to research the “Uncanny”.

How do you choose the themes of your works?

Curiosity and memory is as much a tool as my brushes and paints. My paintings are based on external landscapes and emotional experiences reflecting not only place but also certain states of mind. The terrain I am exploring is the ethereal space that separates the real and the remembered.

Using the importance of experience whist in the landscape as a motive and also my subject matter I am attempting to grasp a line of inquiry into the Freudian notion of “Screen memory”. Last year I began a series of paintings based on a deserted quarry my son had found in Australia, when we arrived we discovered a beautiful pool covered in water lilies, inviting and enticing us in for a swim, but on getting out we noticed the signs saying “Keep out’ Poisonous snakes!  

Back home in my studio I felt compelled to paint the pool I had visited, I then realised it connected back to an childhood incident when I was around 11 years old in which I fell down a quarry and nearly died after getting too close to the edge.  

You favourite Japanese techniques to produce some of your work with unique atmospheric results. What other media or techniques would you like to learn?

The Japanese influence I use in my initial sketches started when I attended night classes in Japanese brush stoke painting or Sumi Painting, as it is known, about twenty years ago.  I have retained certain elements of the style such as using Japanese brushes and inks to try to capture the essence of what I am drawing with the least brush stokes as possible.

On my foundation and degree course I spent quite a bit of time in the print room as I enjoyed learning and trying to master the different processes involved in techniques such as etching, lithographs and photo etching.

One of my prints came close to being hung at the Royal Academy a few years ago when it was selected but not hung in the summer exhibition. I recently returned to printing on a short course at Newlyn School of Art to learn more about screen-printing onto silk.

Is there a message in your art? What is it?

f I had to label my work I would say that the underlying theme is loss and renewal, which includes many references to environmental issues.  

I have been focusing on areas of forests such as clearings, man-made pools and quarries, that not only reflect man’s destruction of the planet but the subsequent renewal and growth by nature.  Loss, and the fear of loss, mimics not only my “screen memories’ concept, but the anxiety that society cloaks and masks itself in today.

Could you please tell us about the creative process since initial thoughts to completion?

Light and colour are sources of inspiration; these are used as painterly devices to create atmosphere and mood. At the moment I am working on a series of small paintings inspired by a Camera Obscura in Tremenheere sculpture gardens in Cornwall (www.tremenheere.co.uk).

I enjoy researching the history of certain colours; for example Indian yellow has been influencing my paintings recently, either as a wash of background colour or just small dabs of it after seeing the colour repeated in certain parts of the Caribbean earlier this year. This triggered a memory association with a local Antiguan mountain named the Sleeping Indian.  

Who has influenced you the most?

I think through trial and error I have found my own way rather than be influenced by any one particular artist. I admire contemporary painters such as Peter Doig, Mamma Anderson and Jenny Saville. I also appreciate Monet, Cezanne and Gauguin as innovators in their time and intrigued more by conceptual artists and makers such as Cornelia Parker for their inquiring minds and thought processes. 

What is your favourite piece of art?

I have been moved to tears by Rembrandt’s later self-portraits, they capture a sense of his individual spirit and profound emotional expressiveness something I, and no doubt any artist hopes to achieve. 

How do you compare the UK art scene outside London with the art scene in the capital? What are the main differences in people's attitudes to art? Do the different lifestyles influence artistic tastes?

I feel that I am very fortunate to live in Cornwall, the art scene is very vibrant and contemporary art has always been at the forefront. This is also reflected in the fact the Tate St Ives was opened which frequently promotes contemporary art in Cornwall.

I am a member of The Newlyn Society of Artists and show regularly with them in various locations within Cornwall; the society has a strong affinity with contemporary art. 

What are your artistic dreams?

I would love a solo show in which I could exhibit a series of interrelated paintings that make sense when hung together rather than an individual painting in group shows. 

To find out more about Julie Moss's work, please visit www.juliemossfineart.co.uk

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