Contemporary artist Poppy Lennox works with paint and embroidery to create works on wood and paper inspired by nature’s systems, patterns and the interconnectivity of life. Her work is centred around reinterpreting the symmetry and repetition of nature, and she creates intricately embroidered pieces exploring humanity’s physical and spiritual connection to our environment.
This interest in spirituality combined with Poppy’s original use of textiles to mimic natural forms evokes the theosophist-inspired art of Swedish artist and mystic Hilma Af Klint, Contemporary Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, and the delicate sculptural forms of the early 20th century Bauhaus weavers Anni Alberts, Gunta Stölzl and Marli Ehrman.
Poppy says that her art alludes to “a kind of pursuit of ascension, self-liberation or perhaps, refuge.”
Poppy’s work has been shown in a number of exhibitions, private members’ clubs and art fairs including 99 Projects, London, The Savoy, Home House and The Other Art Fair. She has sold to collectors in the UK, US, Singapore and Middle East and has work in the collection of renowned London wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd for whom she created a limited-edition artists’ label. Poppy has worked with arts mental health charities Hospital Rooms and A Space Between to deliver on-line and in person workshops
Poppy has exhibited in several projects curated by Culturalee founder Lee Sharrock; the Arms Around the Child charity art auction at Christie’s (2022), ‘Rebirth’ at 99 Projects (2022), and the 2023 International Women’s Day Art on a Postcard auction (2023).
Culturalee spoke to Poppy Lennox about her artistic practice, her inspirations and her most moving cultural experiences.
Culturalee: How would you define ‘culture’?
Poppy Lennox: I think culture is a difficult one to define in absolute. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a unique and remarkable characteristic of the human race. So diverse and unending. Capable of encompassing every one and every thing. At its core, culture embodies stories, doesn’t it? History transmitted across generations, serving as a guiding force for creativity in all facets of life.
What was the starting point for your career as an artist?
There wasn’t so much of a clear starting point for me as an artist as more of a gradual evolution. Post art school and during my nearly 15-year career working in project managing for art fairs, museums and curators, I had continued to create and sell work. After juggling motherhood, creating and project managing for a number of years, I decided to commit full time to my practice.
I suppose the first significant moment of my career was being asked by the London wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd to create a limited-edition artists’ label for them and a piece for their collection. This kick started a lot of great opportunities for me and I’m so grateful to them.
What has been your most moving cultural experience to date?
Now that’s a tricky one! I am a pretty emotional person and so am moved by a lot of things. But I would have to say it’s when I saw Doris Salcedo’s Unlandseries at Tate when I was about 18. This beautiful and utterly devastating series, which fused two tables to make one using thousands of stitched human hairs, was a response to the testimonies of children who witnessed their parents’ murder during Colombia’s civil war. I went on to write my dissertation around Salcedo’s practice and have been profoundly impacted by her work since.
What’s your greatest personal achievement as an artist?
Leaving behind the ‘should’ and instead making work that I feel is truthful and connected.
What’s your favourite artist / book / exhibition / play / film / musician?
Artist: Georgiana Houghton. Ethereal abstract works that she called spirit drawings. A good intro to her work (alongside Hilma af Klint and Emma Kunz) is a fantastic book called ‘World Receivers’
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Exhibition: Rachel Whiteread retrospective at Tate Britain, 2017.
Play: Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth.
Film: Stand By Me. I used to be able to recite the entire film word for word.
Musician: Have to pick two – Bonnie Raitt and Little Simz!
Who are the cultural icons and artists who have inspired you most?
When I was 17 and still at school, I was lucky enough to go to the Slade to interview the painter Euan Uglow. I had written to him thinking that there was no chance he would meet me, as he was known to dislike interviews. But when I got a letter back to say that he would, I was utterly terrified. I shudder to think what rudimentary questions I must have asked him, but I do remember two things very clearly, which I will always aspire to. Firstly, he was incredibly kind – so giving of his time and so patient with my mumbling and nervous self. Secondly, he was absolutely focused on honing his craft. His meticulous paintings took him years to complete and there was an acceptance in that.
Last year I was introduced to the work of Rick Rubin by an artist friend of mine and his book The Creative Act has been a real turning point for me. I’ve listened to the audible of it twice and now I dip in and out of the book as and when I need to. It has taught me that above all else, it is essential that the work you make connects with YOU. There has to be an energetic resonance between yourself and the work, otherwise it is not going to resonate with others. This has really helped me to be connected with my process and not only the final outcome.
Any tips for young people wanting to break into the art world?
Be kind: I’d say that curators, galleries and other artists want to work with someone that is easy to get on with.
Be curious: Attend exhibitions, talks, workshops, as much as you can that you find interesting. Talk to people and ask questions.
Be consistent: Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a slog but keep on going, keep making!
Be professional: Set up a simple website (I use Square Space, which is easy to self manage), Instagram account and make sure you have really good photographs of your work.
Read The Creative Act by Rick Rubin!
Can you describe the process of making your art and how you developed it?
My work has developed and changed quite a lot in the last year. I am working in a much more energetically connected way, as opposed to a more design-led and predetermined process. A lot of the forms in my recent body of work evolve from my dreams or dream like states. I work predominantly onto wood and spend a lot of time building up layers of paint, plaster, filler, and working back into the layers to reveal what’s underneath. I see the surfaces of the works almost like mini cosmoses or worlds within worlds. The final part of my process uses thread that I meticulously embroider through the wood as if it were a canvas or cloth. This process can take hours and hours – an important and meditative aspect of the work.
What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
I am nearly finished with a new series of work, which, with my process, has taken some time! Talking earlier about connection, this series speaks of life’s interconnectivity and the desire we have to connect to place and the space around us. I have an exhibition coming up at Norwich Cathedral’s Crypt Gallery, opening on International Women’s Day, which Lee Sharrock is curating. The exhibition will feature women artists responding to the theme of ‘The Spirit of Boudica’, and there will also be a charity Art on a Postcard auction.
And now that this series of works is almost finished, I am very much hoping to get them out there as a complete body of work. Watch this space!