Trinity Tristan’s studio is just off the bustling Ridley Road market, when I arrive she leads me up to a large shared studio space busy with activity. The space is filled with artists working in a range of media, from sculptural pieces to large drawings. As I approach Trinity’s section of the space I hear calming music playing from an old radio player. My eye is drawn to exotic, Hockney-esque colours, reminiscent of the iconic swimming pool paintings; glowing blues, turquoises and deep yellows jump out at me at once. Trinity tells me that she has a great respect for Hockney’s work and feels he has had a prominent influence on her practice. The paintings I can see in her studio are mostly figurative with blocks of flat colour, although a few paintings she points out take on a more abstract, stylised aesthetic.
‘Symbolism is a big thing in my work,’ Trinity tells me. She goes on to cite Mary Mcfadden, an American fashion designer and writer, as her idol and a person who encouraged her to become interested in ancient civilisations and a more philosophical way of looking at a story. She also tells me she has been hugely inspired by Basquiat and Frida Kahlo and says she relates to the way Kahlo uses symbolism in her paintings. I realise as we talk that Trinity has clearly gone through her various struggles over the years, but has found a way to positively portray aspects of life through her repetitive use of symbols such as palm trees, water, images depicting a paradise, in stark contrast to the oppressive concrete jungle of urban London.
Throughout our conversation, she emphasises the importance of escapism, a concept I definitely see in her paintings that display vibrancy and a dream-like quality. It’s visible that Trinity plays with a seductive atmosphere and surface when she applies the paint, one that removes her subjects from reality, enabling the viewer to truly feel the warmth of the rich colours and encouraging us to be absorbed into the image. One particular painting that stood out for me was deep blue with the words ‘Wet Paint’ messily scrawled across the canvas. When I asked her about this, Trinity leaned out her studio window and pointed across to a blue crate, just off the market, with the same image and graffitied words staring back at us. It was great to see the directness, how she was feeding her surroundings into her work, the environment just outside her window becoming a part of her own utopia.
Breakfast at Trinity’s, her most recent show, was put on by Unit G Gallery in Hackney and ran from 4-7 May in a space just off Brick Lane. The show included some of the paintings I was looking at in her studio, a series of paintings, which reflect her figurative expressionist style. Trinity tells me she did all the 13 paintings for the exhibition within 3 weeks, with the aim to create a meditative space for the viewer. I noted her casual, yet prolific approach to a deadline. ‘I go and do completely pointless research; I’m basically just procrastinating and having a really nice time. I think, ok I’ll go to Hampstead Heath, go to Cornwall, just go and do all these really bizarre and random things.’ Her laid-back nature is rare for artists who have deadlines for shows.She tells me she mixes her own pigments and makes handmade glazes. I can see this for myself from the distinct colour palette throughout her work. This also enables a sensitive, organic approach to her practice, which I found very captivating to see within each painting’s surface.
Trinity grew up in Cornwall and received both her BA and MA from Falmouth University. She tells me about her studio in Cornwall, describing it as a 17th century dungeon on the harbour in Falmouth. She has held onto the space, as the rent is just five pounds per week, hard to believe in comparison to steep London rents. Trinity’s description of Falmouth and the surrounding area sounds like complete bliss and tranquillity for her and for her practice. These elements visibly transfer straight to her work through the colourful, alluring landscapes she paints.
Trinity is in the process of creating a set of new works which will follow the idea of internal and external identity, a key theme she plays with throughout her practice. She explains that since Breakfast at Trinity’s, she wants to scale the colouring of her paintings right back. She is currently experimenting with plastering the canvas surface, with the content of the image being rendered, then 3D printed and will be cast from a number of materials including resin, metals and stone. ‘The plaster refers to Renaissance mural painting when they mixed pigment with plaster,’ she tells me. I’m intrigued by Trinity’s desire to explore classical references in the process of creating a piece, giving her paintings the chance to develop new aesthetics and potentially adding another dimension for the viewer.
Trinity concluded our chat by telling me… ‘I tend to feel conscious about the world, so painting for me is an excuse to get out of one world and build another.’
Trinity’s work can be seen at: www.trinitytristan.com / @trinitytristan
Photographs by Ana Larruy