MIMMO Meets: Rose Arbuthnott

MIMMO Meets: Rose Arbuthnott

After meeting Rose in our pop-up last year, we are bursting with excitement to now be able to share her work at MIMMO Studios. Rose has been kind enough to spend some time chatting to our good friend Lydia Tsiouva about her work, life, inspirations and lots more. We hope you enjoy reading.

Your style is impressively varied across the different types of mediums you use; can you tell us about these? 

I've worked in series a lot. I'll have a body of work that's 60/70 paintings, there has been less than that. I like to quite rigorously explore one thing at a time. I'm studying at the Royal College of Art at the moment doing sculpture, so I'll be exploring different mediums and installations. I've started doing an evening class in figurative sculpture, that's really exciting. I'm pushing into portrait, not painting but drawing. I draw my dad a lot because he falls asleep on the sofa. There's lots of drawings of him conked out which is quite funny. Looking forwards I want to do portrait busts. The bodies of work I make are all very different. I'm looking to make connections between them and link it all together.

I understand your current work, particularly paintings, is different to your earlier pieces. What are the most notable differences and do you have a favourite medium to work with? 

I love working with Clay. I went to the Royal Drawing School and did a lot of drawing, and I got really into charcoal on sugar paper. Its possible to change the composition radically. I was learning about composing to a whole, and the rest of my work was based on igniting the painting in this way, you know, working the painting until the whole thing came into harmony. I started painting mainly about 8 years ago. Before that I spent 2 years in Edinburgh doing painting and one year doing sculpture. I am definitely a mixed media artist.

What are some of your favourite memories from studying Art & Art History at Edinburgh University? 

I planned this piece which was a happening, it never actually happened but I wrote the script for it. It was all the architecture of the city. It was like a walking tour and then it got really surreal. Edinburgh is an incubator for the surreal side of life. There's a lot of pagan festivals. I was really into the folk scene, I couldn't play anything myself but I'd go to the pub downstairs and listen to the folk musicians. I loved that whole earthly thing. It was my friend Lizzie who plugged us into the scene, we lived together. She's now a Brooklyn Anarchist in New York. 

You also received a scholarship to attend Prince’s Drawing School in London, how did that differ to Scotland? Where did you live in London and which of the two did you prefer? 

I love Edinburgh with all my heart, but the course was amazing in London. There were 20 of us, and we'd just hang out all day every day. I went in every day and got back at about midnight. We used to hang out in the studio and at art galleries and museums. I just had a break up which is why I had applied, because I had to get out of Edinburgh. I lived in Battersea, it was a building site and there were builders living there, so I lived there for free but I couldn't shut my door. I'd come back home in the evening and they'd all be watching the football. - Kudos for being awarded the second prize.  

Tell us about the piece and what inspired it? 

Also, what was the prize? How embarrassing ! You’ve been reading my cv! The prize was £250. I think it was probably those big charcoal drawings on sugar paper. I'm diagnosed with Schizophrenia so I had my first episode during my time at drawing school, so the head of the school, who's actually a friend of mine, came to see me in hospital and she picked out some of the work for the exhibition. I think it was based on the whole year's work as opposed to one piece for that purpose.

From co-founding ‘The Owl Barn’ artist residency in Gloucestershire to undertaking an artist residency at The First Food in Mexico, how has each location informed your work, alongside historic Edinburgh? Do different environments spawn new inspiration?

Location massively informs my work. I painted the 'Heads' series in London but it came out of being in Mexico the summer before, it also happened when I was in Uganda, the work looked like it was from there.. I don't know how but it did. In the workings of art, it's so mysterious and it should be, you know? Quite a lot of it is circumstance. You know, restriction of materials and what you can get hold of/ what's easy to use. 

I’ve been told your family home is rich with character and unique interiors. Has this/ your Parents made an impression on your artistic journey? 

My dad has a really strong work ethic so I kind of picked that up from him. I was also inspired to do more still life work when my brother and wife came to live with us in the countryside during lockdown. Kitty, my brother's wife, really inspired me, and so I did a lot of observation. So that was the groundwork and then at some point I made a square painting, then I made 50 square ones over about a year which fed into the 'Still Lives series.' I have a studio here which is amazing but I can't really paint in there because it's cold. I've been painting in my mum's kitchen, hence the still life. Sometimes she sets up her phone behind me without me knowing, and records the whole painting process. 

I’ve noticed your beautifully colourful ‘Still Lives’ feature plenty of flowers and tulips. Are these muses from your vegetable garden? 

This is a really tragic story. Basically, I started growing tulips 2 years ago. I had 5 trays of bulbs so I took them all out of the ground. I went back to see them in January and the whole lot had been eaten by mice. I was so sad. For birthdays and Christmas for the next 2 years I'll just be asking for tulip bulbs. But yes, tulips are quite an easy thing to paint.  

I’m particularly drawn to your ‘A Moment In Time’ series of co-existing objects, coupled with what I believe is a poem on your website. Could you tell us about this? 

I love it. I've been doing it for years. It's just like putting 2 things together that kind of talk to each other, ignite each other. The latest one I've made was a post-Christmas piece of cheese sculpture. It's like a pile of cheese after Christmas but it's incredibly pleasing. It's a surreal thing, when I get into a creative mindset, things come together and they’re gifts from the universe. It’s when that transformation occurs that they become iconic. 

Have you experienced any challenges as an artist so far and how do you overcome a creative block? 

I have creative block all the time. Usually if I don't do anything in the day, I write poetry in the evening. The difficult thing for me is going big, like big paintings. I tried to make these large black and white drawings but it just didn't pull off, so everything went lax. I try to do stuff every day because when I do do it, It’s great, and that's why drawing school was amazing because you had to turn up. Sometimes I just get drunk and that helps. Last night for instance inspired me to make some art about my sister, I don’t know what she feels about that! 

What exhibitions have you taken part in recently? What are you currently working on now?

And do you have any exciting plans? I’ve been working on this book of landscapes in Wales. I've also been working on this dance piece called ‘Baroque Ukraine.’ We filmed some stuff in London and some in Wales, so that's what I'm excited about. There are More 'Still Lives' to come. I've got a show at TOAST. I'm looking for artistic collaborations, I'm interested in helping people who have artistic block, running a residency in Gloucestershire, artists living togetherness the country is ace. I'm interested in people who want to come and read or sort out artist block or any other artistic complaints. We can do tutorials. 


If you could live in a film set based on location or period, which film would you choose and why?

Poldark. I’m a red-head say no more. Maybe Game of Thrones in a castle but just the set, brutal film.

What’s the one object you couldn’t live without?

Piano. It always brings me back to myself to play

What defines you the most?

Frumpy, red-headed, welly booted, toast-dressed, sarcastic rye Surrealist.

Dream dinner party guests?

Martin Shaw, Aretha Franklin, Edith Piaf Einstein, my sister.

What are you reading/ watching at the moment?

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg- great to read a novel again!

Shop Rose's Originals here