Updated: Jul 31
Lydia Moraitis is a London-based artist working primarily in screen-printing. Lydia’s practice is an interrogation of language, specifically around gender roles and the language towards womxn in our current society. In this interview, Lydia talks to Hannah Payne about life a year on since graduating from The Ruskin School of Fine Art & Drawing, her current artist residency resulting in her first solo exhibition Here Comes a Candle, showing in London in August 2023.
LM: I actually came across screen printing as a solution to a problem. It was my final year at the Ruskin, Covid had eaten up the first two years and we were thankfully back in the studios. With little to no access to studios throughout my second year, I had taken to a lot of collaging (cutting and sticking images onto paper was about as much as I could do with the put-up table in my student flat).
The process of cherry-picking images and splicing them together into compositions was something I enjoyed but now we had our studios back I wanted to push it further. I started experimenting by transferring the images onto wood with the aim to give them a new dimension.
I loved the tactile nature of physically printing the image and the fact I could see my hand in the medium’s finished result. It’s a cliché but when printing by hand it often comes with mistakes, something will smudge something will not align properly but I think that it makes them more human, in comparison to a digitally printed image. By using the halftone pattern and printing in CYMK it also mimics the way the magazine images are printed, I like to think I’m bringing the image full circle.
I’m now obviously a year out of the Ruskin and screen printing has stuck! I love pushing the boundaries of the medium and my new works are certainly a lot more ambitious. I feel I’ve found a visual language that I have ownership over and my residency gives me the time and space to truly hone in and perfect it.
‘Eve’s Apple’ 2022 102 x 102 x 3 cm Screen prints on MDF, White Gesso, Neon Acrylic.
LM: My residency at Surbiton High School came about as I was coming to the end of university. The degree show was approaching, and I was really enjoying the excitement of it all, thinking how on earth am I going to continue making after uni?
So, amongst degree show prep I was looking for jobs in London. I’m originally from the lake district and career-wise I knew I wanted to be in the capital with all the access to opportunities. I wasn’t being picky with what I was applying for, I was looking up residencies, applying for art gallery jobs and the odd ‘normal’ job. Scrolling on LinkedIn I came across this artist in residence role and it sounded perfect.
I’m now one year in and I’m loving it, it gives me the opportunity to keep developing my practice while also offering guidance to secondary school art students. The students at Surbiton high school have the access and opportunity to make some really ambitious projects so even when I’m not working on my own stuff, it’s such an exciting place to work.
Since beginning in September, I’ve been lucky enough to continue my practise whilst adapting to a new environment learning to be more efficient in my work and which corners to cut.
In doing so, I landed my first solo exhibition and have been working towards creating a new body of work for that which I’m really excited to show!
I think the most beneficial part of the residency has been having to show up every day. Unlike a personal studio I have to come in 5 days a week and it’s been really beneficial to me because its forced me to create when inspiration is running low on the ground. I’ve had some of my biggest breakthroughs on days where I began by not even wanting to look at the work!
The American painter Chuck Close, has a great perspective on this that I often come back to,
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work…All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
I buy into that. Through the process of showing up every day I challenge myself to keep learning and experimenting just by showing up and getting to work.
Lydia Moraitis pictured in the print studio during her artist residency at Surbiton High School
LM: There are so many artists I admire, but I love it when artists push the envelope in some exciting way. My current top two are Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas. With Emin I love how honest, raw and emotional she allows her work to be, and I try to channel that. Her ability to confront personal experiences head-on has inspired me to be more candid in my own art. I've realised that at times, I tend to hide behind humour or idioms to avoid delving too deeply into the personal. However, in my recent work I have made a conscious effort to be more open and transparent, using my own experiences as a genuine source of influence.
I’m equally inspired by Sarah Lucas due to her audacious gender-redefining feminist subject matter but also how she pairs found objects together to create these thought-provoking sculptures that are instantly recognisable.
In my work, I often integrate found objects alongside the screen-printed pieces, juxtaposing soft and strong, gloss and matte, and bridging the gap between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional realms. The incorporation of these tactile elements adds depth and interactivity to my work, in an attempt to invite viewers to engage on multiple sensory levels. For example, my piece ‘Ruffle my feathers’ (said with a *wink*) involves two screen printed legs surrounding a red feather boa. The two legs mirrored create a vaginal image, with the placement of the feathers implying more than a wink if they were to be ruffled. It’s flirtatious and fun which is why I think the feather boa works so well amongst the images of the two legs. If there was ever an object that captures ‘flirtatious and fun’ it’s a feather boa right?
The titling is a big part of my practice, and I find a lot of influence and inspiration from language like idioms, phrases or poetry. Sometimes, I’ll come across a phrase and make a piece from it or I’ll make a piece and then assign it a phrase once I’ve discovered what it’s about. For example, for my piece ‘Budgie Smuggler’, involving an image of a bird held tightly in a hand with a pair of boxers draped over the edge, the title came as soon as I found the image. The image itself could be perceived as quite sinister - there’s obviously a lot of references to women as birds and the hand holding it tightly (the smuggling) implies no escape and entrapment. The phrase ‘Budgie Smuggler’ is also a name given to tight boxers that men wear so by draping the boxers over it’s a little nod to that, injecting humour into something ominous. But more often than not, I’ll make a work and then it will find its title when I’m thinking about what found object to pair it with, if I’d paired the bird in hand with, let’s say a rake or a pair of jeans it would be a different piece of work. That’s quite a fun process, finding which object works the best, deciding on the titles and discovering what the work should say.
Left: Budgie Smuggler, 2022, Digital print on paper, MDF, Cotton boxers, 70 x 47 x 4 cm.
Right: ‘Ruffle my feathers’ 2023, Screen prints on MDF, White Gesso, Neon Acrylic, Feather Boa, 40 x 70 x 4 cm.
LM: My upcoming solo exhibition entitled ‘Here comes a candle’ is a culmination of the work I’ve made since graduating. It’s based around a poem I wrote with the same title, which explores themes of youth, the consequences of choices, introspection and the awareness of mortality. The poem and therefore the exhibition, is a kind of self-reflection on my stage in life. A new adult with independence, in a new city, trying to juggle my career, aging, friendships, relationships, finances, it’s a stage that is both equally attractive and unpleasant.
The phrase ‘Here comes a candle’ is actually an excerpt from the old English nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ about a prisoner being lead to execution. It continues, ‘Here comes a candle to light you to bed, Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!’ I wanted the title to capture that ominous, head on the chopping block pressure, but also as a double meaning with the candle playing with the idea of birthday candles counting time down. A physical sign of aging, burning out and the awareness of time passing.
My piece entitled ‘Here comes a candle’ spells out this phrase in individual screen-printed lit matches. Each one ready to light a candle. There is a green glow behind them and again it’s a sinister reminder of that counting down of time with its placement looming above the rest like its hanging over you.
Throughout the exhibition I’m also contemplating what it means to age as a woman and the internal struggle women face to redefine themselves, finding meaning beyond societal definitions of beauty and worth, whether that’s the involvement of POW shaped mirror, a birthday balloon or a juicy screen printed apple.
The idea of beauty as worth also comes into relationships and exploring what it means to navigate them in a time where you’re being told there’s always someone better. My piece ‘All my eggs’ plays with this idea. It comes from the phrase ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ which essentially means that you shouldn’t concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as you could lose everything. And in a relationship context, don’t put all your energy into one person. The piece involves an image of a hand holding a basket that has been torn in half, mirrored so the baskets almost complete each other, there’s a sense of balance as they rely on the other to stand. The plinth itself is made up of 3 stacked baskets adorned with black and white gingham picnic fabric like an unhappy picnic. And in case you wondered, here, there’s no eggs in sight!
Creating the work for this exhibition has really been a journey of apples, eggs and tears but I am so excited for it to all come together and I’m really grateful to TM Lighting gallery for the opportunity too.
‘Here Comes A Candle’ 2023 675 x 58 x 3 cm Screen prints on MDF, White gesso, neon acrylic paint.
LM: I think the most significant learning curve I experienced was understanding the business side of being an artist. The transition from the structured environment of art school to the unpredictable world of a working artist was definitely a shock to my system. The reality you face is building a career from scratch, without the guidance, advice and collaboration that comes with being part of an art course.
At the Ruskin the focus was primarily on developing your ideas, technical skills and cultivating creativity. However, as a professional artist, I’ve had to learn (and am still learning) how to market my work, network with potential clients and galleries, and manage my finances effectively.
I very quickly realised that being an artist involved wearing multiple hats. Not only do I have to create art, but I also have to become an entrepreneur, a public relations expert, and a financial planner. It was definitely a daunting thing to realise, but it’s pushed me to educate myself on these aspects of the art world that were never covered at university.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned during this year is the importance of collaboration and community. Being an artist can be isolating, but I discovered the power of connecting with other artists. Sharing experiences, knowledge, and resources with fellow artists provided support during times where I’ve felt quite lost. Seeking out those who are on the same journey as you and finding those friendships where you lift each other up without the idea of constant competition or gatekeeping and trying to be generous has really helped me, and if I was to offer advice to art students graduating this year it would be that - build and cultivate your artist community.
I think also the other piece of advice that I keep repeating to myself and having to remind myself of is that there is no rush, there is a right time for everything and although it can be easy to look around at what friends and fellow art graduates are doing and compare yourself, try your best not to and focus on yourself, yes the candle is coming but you do have time!
'All my eggs’ 2023 54 x 168 x 50 cm Screen prints on MDF, White Gesso, Wicker baskets, Spray paint, Gingham cotton, Metal rods.
Thank you to Lydia Moraitis for participating in The Art Five, Issue 25.
Here Comes a Candle
at TM Lighting gallery, 7 Cubitt St, London WC1X 0LN
2 - 31 August 2023. Private View 2 August, 6-8pm. RSVP/viewing appointments: Info@tmlighting.com
About Lydia Moraitis
London-based artist Lydia Moraitis (b. 2000) works primarily with screen printing. Lydia grew up in the Lake District before moving to Oxford to undertake a BA Fine Art at The Ruskin School of Art from 2019-2022. Since graduating, Moraitis has exhibited across the UK; Key exhibitions include ‘Made it 2022’ at Rogue Artist Studios Manchester (October 2022) and Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair with Meakin + Parsons x Hannah Payne (November 2022). In August 2023 she will have her first solo exhibition at TM Lighting gallery, London.
Lydia’s practice is an interrogation of language, specifically around gender roles and the language towards womxn in our current society. Working with a phrase, her process begins in the medium of collage, which become installations with each sculpture punctuating the space. She uses imagery gathered from magazines before reprinting them onto MDF. Reminiscent of their original form, the cut of the paper is mimicked in the shape of the MDF, allowing for copycat tears and jagged scissor lines.
“It’s a process of understanding a phrase and recreating it in a new magnified form; the puns become visual, the origin of the image now decontextualised and reconstructed.”
Lydia is currently completing a residency at Surbiton High School in Surrey where she works full-time on her artwork.
All images courtesy of The Artist.