Creation of Dreams and Visions
Hazel’s studio is located in her home in west palm beach florida where she has lived for the last three years after moving from upstate New York where she also had a studio in the attic of her apartment and where her journey as an artist began in ernest.
Hazel Griffiths was born in Ormskirk in the UK in 1984 to an english father and a german mother then spent the rest of her childhood and youth in the Shropshire and Herefordshire areas surrounded by the hills and mountains near the welsh border.
One could say her roots in art are almost genetic, as there were a lot of artist in the family, her father had been a landscape architect after studying art at university and then went on to make bespoke furniture then becoming a well renowned landscape photographer and botanical illustrator later on in life. Her Grandmother and Grandfather on her German side were also both artists, their work decorating every wall in their large three story house. Hazel says her Grandfather’s paintings always made a huge impression on her and remembers standing in front of some of the larger surrealist pieces depicting strange, eerie landscapes or a dreamlike scene whose perspectives faded into eternity, feeling like she was looking into another world. She then realized very early on what a powerful impact art can have on the psyche and the soul; the ability to transport one to other worlds and states of consciousness, contemplating life from new vantage points. “Having art at home in all our houses was a constant source of inspiration and fascination, I mean I had ready-made doors into all these other worlds”!
After moving to the Herefordshire Steiner school at the age of ten, whose heavily art based curriculum gave her creative mind a chance to grow, she then studied art & design at Hereford college of the arts. After failing her all of her exams but english, she was taken on by the college, on the strength of the portfolio she had built up while at school. She went on to specialize in fashion design after a tutor suggested she should consider making sculptural garments inspired by a series of small sculptures made from discarded packaging materials, resembling strange scalloped sea creatures and shells. She consequently went on to study fashion at Newport university in South Wales. She also tended her love of writing throughout college and university years, winning a writing competition for her short story and a film review of ‘mullholland drive’ by one of her favorite directors David Lynch. Then receiving the highest grade and praise for her dissertation proposal ‘re-membering’ – an essay on the spiritual schism that forms between us and the rest of the world and other beings, a separation brought about through language, which is unique in humans and our subsequent need to bridge that skis, the gaps in our souls through religion, chemicals, love and other things take us back to the feeling of being whole – from her tutor who said she was the only student he ever had, who had broached the subject with such depth of understanding and competence. In fact the kernel of this very theme has remained the transcendental force behind her art from the beginning and is especially evident in her latest works.
“After realizing I couldn’t sew to save my life and that the fashion industry in general was not for me, I decided to travel for a few years” she says. Her travels then took her to the alluring and hedonistic island of Ibiza, the dark streets of looming colonial buildings in Barcelona to the magical alien landscapes of Iceland and the varied scenery and ancient cultures of Mexico – the mountain village of creel, the coast of Acapulco and Baja California, the ruins and jungles of Oaxaca -“that city at night was like being lost in fairytale” she says of her time there. Her travels took her on many roads, down many paths before ending up in the United States. After having lived in New York – Manhattan and Brooklyn and upstate NY, the latter with its extreme seasons and wild, tangled beauty was a great influence on her creativity and developing style, as it was here that she feels she became the artist that she is today. After living in Oneida NY, she settled in Florida which is where the artist now lives with her husband of almost eight years.
So like a river will always find the ocean, she found her way back into creating art again after keeping the bare bones of her passion alive in sketchbooks she kept while traveling, recording her internal landscapes in response to the varied and changing lands around her, separated by the thousands of miles she traveled.
Hazel has now been painting for the last nine years and has explored various techniques from classical oil painting to encaustic wax and mixed media and also took classes in figure and landscape painting with the late artist Dennis Aufiery until his death earlier on this year in 2015. “ One of the most important lessons I learned from him was actually part of his philosophy, he once said that the marks you make is the energy of that moment transferred onto the paper or canvas as a lasting impression. He always painted in the moment, never from photographs. That sentiment had huge impression on me and even though many of my pieces start out in the form of a photoshoot, I find that for me it is then the transference of a thought or feeling that has been distilled and transferred onto the canvas. But I still find a lot of value in spending time outside of the studio painting the environment around me and being in the moment, its almost a form of meditation. It is now something I do every time I go back to Europe, I paint the landscapes and the seasons that for me are already ingrained in my memories and to be out there experiencing these places in the here and now, I find to be particularly cathartic. Even though the pieces I produce professionally in my studio are not landscapes (these I make just for myself, but maybe one day I will show them…) this philosophy still brings a lot of depth to my work and a new understanding of my craft”, she says of the artist who left a great impression on her.
She is now a professional artist specializing in a unique mixed media style using encaustic wax, oil, acrylic and metal leaf, the reflected light of which adds a mystical element to the surface of her paintings. Often using natural fiber with wax to create interesting textures and surfaces, “I love to use texture in my work as to me it lends gravity, anchoring into a dimension that is real, placing it in this world while simultaneously being in the realm of fantasy, which is my own form of magical realism. Also the textures I use, mirror the structures I see in nature, which have always been the source of inspiration at the core of my creativity”.
Many of her previous works have been abstracts using various encaustic wax and mixed media techniques but recent works have been figurative, mixed media pieces, displaying realistic yet slightly stylized figures which are remnants from her fashion design days. Her recent work is at times depicting a magical reality in which the subject seems to conjuring up a fairy-garden reality around them or dissolving in a state of awakening or transcendence. Many people gravitate toward these pieces in particular, especially seeing them in person. “They seem to find a deep connection to them, maybe as a response to a world in which connection to true spirituality is rare and many people have a bone-deep feeling of ennui in a culture that has made us all but forget our true selves and our sacred connection to the universe” she states. It is evocative of one of her favorite quotes:
“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you” – Rumi.
It feels like the perfect affirmation to accompany her work. This series brings this theme full circle from its inception in the form of an essay to these accomplished works of vision. “ I use people as my subjects as I want to show what we could be, the state of being we could come back to, not what we are; to close that fission between our souls and the rest of the universe. ”
“Someone said to me recently after seeing ‘The comet’ – a commissioned piece that actually started the ‘spiritual ascension’ series – that it seemed to him as though the figure seemed to be returning or dissolving back into a primordial sea. I then realized the theme of water has followed me not just in my personal life but in art also, it was always there in my subconscious, I just didn’t realize it until now: the waters of sleep and the medium of memory – subjects that have somehow found their way into my work through unconscious processes throughout the years. This is the reason I find other peoples interpretations into my work so valuable and insightful”.
The collector who commissioned piece ‘The comet’, values Hazel as an artist for this reason also; he writes poetry and values her interpretations of his poems through paintings he has commissioned. People tend to have this strong reaction when seeing the work in person, they really connect to it on a very personal and spiritual way.
Her latest piece is the first in a series in which she herself is the subject, in which she seems to be dreaming up memories of the internalized landscapes of her childhood and the many foreign lands she has found herself in; the figure, lying on her side, seeming to sleep on the mossy forest floor of a magical world made from colorful, textured creations in wax and natural fiber.
Hazel has now taken part in various art shows and charity events since becoming a professional artist, including hArt festival in the UK. After having lived and worked consistently in the south Florida area for the last few years, getting to know other artists and photographers and establishing a name for herself, she is now part of a collective of artists that regularly put on exhibitions in Delray Beach Florida.
Hazel’s work has also been displayed at gallery 212 Miami and took part in Art Basel Miami with them in 2014 and will be with Lemon City Studios, which is a gallery and studio space new to Miami, for Art Basel this year in 2015.