A conversation with the artist Christabel MacGreevy

29th May 2018

Christabel MacGreevy graduated from Central Saint Martins with a Fine arts degree in 2014. She then went on to found Itchy Scratchy Patchy with her business partner Edie Campbell. Her brand has collaborated with Dover Street Market as well as other commercially successful brands such as Sunspel and Dickies. Her latest show; Glut, is a culmination of ideas surrounding gender fluidity, the female identity, and fertility. 

The cave-like space of LAMB Arts, where Glut is being hosted, has been transformed into an enveloping pink ‘womb’ filled with colourful and subtly sexual sculptures. Bright phallic shapes sit atop paint splattered plinths and large resin ‘tongue’ sculptures stand obtrusively along the walls. The exhibition also comprises of a selection of MacGreevy’s latest drawings, together with five tapestries and quilting pieces, which represent the idea of maintaining a craft very much related to femininity.

Christabel MacGreevy. Photo credit: Camille Summers Valli

As a child, MacGreevy recounts longing to be a boy as she found it unfair that maleness granted the ability to live by the ever-forgiving ethos that “boys will be boys”. Now, her defiantly female oeuvre challenges preconceived ideologies of gender and the male machismo.
Inspired by the artwork of Carol Rama, Louise Bourgeoise, Courbet and poetry by Sappho and Lynette Yiadom Bokye (specifically Problems with the Moon). Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, about a character who starts his life as a young nobleman in medieval England and ends life as a middle-aged woman, was another inspiration of MacGreevy’s due to its revolutionary freedom and non-conformity. 

Candid Magazine: You reference Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando in your work. What did you find most inspiring about it?
CMG: Orlando is a book about freedom, fluidity and nonconformity. Orlando lives for 400 years, initially as a man, and later as a woman. But throughout these changes, the essence of the character remains the same. The story communicates the eternity within humanity, making the times and fashions that we live in, and our gender and age seem like mere superficiality on top of what is real and true. 
CM: What does ‘femininity’ mean to you?
CMG: Femininity is a construct, a series of learned signs and signifiers which make up identity.  What is most interesting is when these gender assumptions are twisted in some way, and gender becomes something less obvious. 
CM: What do you most enjoy about showing your work in London?
CMG: I like that all my friends and family can come and see it. And it’s always a bit of a party. 

Christabel MacGreevy, Sink at Mum's In The House I Grew Up In, 2018, Charcoal, Chalk and Oil Pastel, 75 x 55 cm. All: ©Christabel MacGreevy, 2018.

CM: What are your favourite things to do in London?
CMG: London is my home and I’m always happy to get back after I have been away. One of my favourite things to do is drawing in the British Museum. I like swimming in the Ladies pond at Hampstead Heath on boiling hot days. And I like getting coffee at Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park and wandering around the edge of the lake. 

CG: You also have a fashion label, Itchy Scratchy Patchy, can you tell me about how that began?
CMG: Itchy Scratchy Patchy began as a very light-hearted project between friends, designing a bunch of humorous embroidered patches. Over the last three years it has grown into a small seasonal clothing label, stocked in department stores in the UK, US and Asia. 

CM: Who are your biggest inspirations in terms of your art?
CMG: Inspiration comes from anywhere. I have just been in Rome, eating pasta, looking at Carravagios, Berninis, heavily gilded ceilings of churches covered in putti, cardinal’s outfits, and rows of coloured ribbons in a haberdashers. 

Installation shot, © Damian Griffiths, 2018.

CM: Is there any advice you would give to someone aspiring to be an artist?
CMG: Never stop making. The process is often more important than the outcome in terms of taking ideas to the next stage.
CM: What are you working on next after this show?
CMG: Some new paintings.
Words by Cara van Rhyn
London artist, Christabel MacGreevy’s first solo show, Glut, is now open at LAMB Arts until the 9th June 2018.

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