Welcome to Ana Rosa Louis’ (aka Destroy Modern Art) world. An Intersectional Feminist artist, practitioner of Sufi Philosophy, Jungian Psychology, and Witchcraft, Ana Rosa has decided to ditch the rat-race of the metropolis and head for the sunnier, Mediterranean climate of Italy to do voluntary work with refugees on Lampedusa Island. We recently caught up with her before she packs up lock, stock and barrel and head for the South.
Why did you choose to leave London at this stage In your life?
“I’ve always wanted to live abroad since I was 7 years old. But was always held back by money/ health/family problems. I’ve been fixed physically thanks to the NHS so I’m healthy enough to travel; I couldn’t carry heavy things before without getting dizzy. Money is coming in -I’m not rich but I’ve got an income. And I’m not letting family hold me back ever again. Life starts again now. A clean fresh start, cutting ties with a toxic past, I’ve thrown out most of my belongings -especially the ones with memories. I need a new challenge: London is over for me. I want a new language and a new culture.”
How did you find out about the refugee project in Italy?
“I’d been looking for something for months actually, but couldn’t find anything until I stumbled across an article about Lampedusa Island and followed a few links until it popped up; voluntary work with Refugees is usually self-funded. I’m paying a lot to be part of this project and it isn’t for very long, but hopefully I will make more contacts and can get involved again. I’ll be there for 2 weeks and then need to find a job.”
I read that you described yourself as an ‘Intersectional Feminist’; can you explain what this means?
“It means that I respect our differences: our skin tones; cultures; ways of expressing gender and different sexalities. These things cross-reference our lives everyday. Intersectional Feminism recognises the various forms of inequality, and other issues then faces them head on instead of having a massive hissy fit when someone calls you out. I’ve been following a lot of Indigenous Activists for example, who talk about how reliance on fossil fuels links not only directly to pollution and environmental destruction, but also to sexual violence and murder. This occurs when oil workers show up in large numbers and see Indigenous women as fair game because of enduring racism and the lack of support from the government. Standing Rock was eye-opening for me and many others in terms of how to approach activism… but white feminism won’t acknowledge this huge event: it hates giving up leadership and following WoC (Women of Colour). I keep hearing white feminists say that they’re tired of hearing about racism, and why can’t we all just get along? Which basically means they want us to shut up and stop fighting racism because they are complicit in it. I support Transgender rights and I know they are experiencing a lot of abuse from the feminist community at the moment and I think it’s appalling. “
What’s the idea behind the comic -especially the inclusion of the plants (which I find really funny)?
“I was very alone at that point. I’d lost a lot of “friends,” and was struggling with feelings of betrayal. I had to say goodbye to a guy I didn’t want to ever say goodbye to, and my business plan fell apart -I was utterly heartbroken. In the middle of the sadness I discovered that silliness and small things were the key to maintaining a steady middle level of happiness. I decided to buy the plants to brighten my flat up, but most of them died; jokes about plants dying became drawings and then I began the Inktober challenge in 2016 and it really came into its own. It confronted my self-doubts and the criticism I’d been getting. Turning the doubts and criticism into stories told by my plant characters helped me to get better understanding of myself and the world. It also gave me more respect for myself because I was looking at my own creative resilience on paper. I was fighting depression and grief with felt-tips and I won! It was harder to keep it going when I was happy though: I need different ways to express myself when I’m happy.”
How do the subjects (ie. Jungian psychology, and Witchcraft) you’ve studied, inform your art?
“After Art School I was unable to create. Studying Art killed my creativity; a bad relationship prevented any inspiration. I started going to Anthropology evening classes, went back to Uni to study it part-time. It gave me an understanding of how symbolic culture develops, the significance of colours, patterns and images. A module in African Cosmology woke me up to my own need to develop my art practice. The way a particular tribe would use art, music, dance and plants to heal themselves and each other made a lot of sense in relation to what I wanted to achieve, and what I had experienced. So I was able to start developing my own symbolic culture based on what was meaningful in my life. The Jungian stuff (Shadow work) was a personal exercise in moving my thoughts from the subconscious to the conscious mind thus developing my personal symbolic culture. The witchcraft connection… well I feel the word encompasses “Me” more than the word feminism. The knowledge I gained from Anthropology was very pagan and pre-Christian. I was brought up by Evangelical Christians- a hate cult. They followed the teachings of religious men who took part in the Witch trials. To call myself a Witch is to oppose my upbringing -to be a person who feels love instead of hate. Someone who wants to help bring healing to the world, who follows her intuition but who also makes a fierce enemy. My first Art show was an exploration of Love inspired by Sufi Philosophy a more intense, immersive experience than a normal art show… like a Shamans tent. Youtube Witch, Kelly-Ann Maddox, has been essential in my journey to finding myself: I highly recommend her videos.
Your love of food is clearly evident in your work; how did you get your job at Natoora?
“I was working nearby and applied 3 times for the job; I just loved the energy and colours of the produce. It’s a good job, looking after living things even if they are Aubergines or Cavolo Nero, it has a healthy side effect on the mind- I guess like gardening does. The staff have been so incredibly supportive of me as well. I’ve also been able to meet my favourite chefs!”
Why do you use mainly teal and red as your colour palette?
“They are the colours that excite my eyes the most. I’m drawn to the colour combination like a magpie to a shiny thing.”
How did you get the illustrator ‘gig’ at Psychological Magazine?
“An Activist friend I knew offered me my first commission during the summer holidays at Uni in 2007. I was crashing on a friend’s sofas, and couldn’t find a proper job so he offered me this. I’d run out of materials too, so I did my first commission on the back of a flyer with some pens I found on a shelf and borrowed a friend’s laptop with Photoshop. I’ve been working for them ever since. My early work was pretty awful though looking back!! It’s been a life saver though: Im very grateful.”
When you got the call/email to say that you’d been chosen as one of the artists for the recent Nasty Women: Empowerment exhibition, how did you feel?
“I was really excited; I was also in the middle of setting up my own show so I was many levels of excited that day.”
How did you choose which pieces to exhibit?
“I chose my ‘Pomegranate Goddess‘ because she owns her sexuality in a very *in your face* way, but there’s a deeper meaning too. Opening a Pomegranate reminded me of self-analysis post heartbreak and the Rumi quote “You have to keep breaking your heart to open it”. But there is also the cheeky sexual fruit and veg based humour. I was drawing the blackboards at work and noticed that all my fruit drawings looked a lot like vaginas in a Georgia O’keeffe way so I was sending the photos to a guy I was seeing as a flirty erotic joke, which then turned into my Pomegranate Series!! Nasty Women all the way!!!”
Did you manage to catch up, and network with the other artists exhibiting?
“Honestly I tried, but I was having a strange day. Moving has been stressing me out a bit so I feel kinda edgy all the time!! I really liked the doodle table.”
Did you have a favourite piece of artwork apart from your own?
“The Medusa by Isabel Rock. Loved it. Green, teal and red! Perfect. I would love to buy it if I wasn’t moving away.”
Did the exhibition live up to your expectations? (if you had any in the first place)
“It was bigger and better than I was expecting. Busier- but I didn’t know what to expect actually!!”
What are your interim plans before you leave for Italy?
“Trying to throw everything away or sell all my saleable stuff; I still need to sell a lot of my artwork. I’m trying to stay calm and learn Italian… Need to get over my fear of Airports and buying tickets. I always get the dates and times wrong!!”
You can checkout Ana Rosa’s realist chalkboard produce drawings at the West London branch of Natoora. Her hilarious and witty comic featuring her talking spider plants can be found on Facebook on her London Life Comic page. Recent exhibitions include her solo one at: W3 Gallery, Acton, London; and the Nasty Women Exhibition: Empowerment @ The Black and White Space in Shoreditch, London for International Women’s Day in March.