Artist and photographer Lauren Burgess, known as Esthète, has always been drawn to organic composition and form. Using her mood as a driver, the skill to turn her feelings of anxiety into something truly remarkable is a skill not easily acquired.
As a child, Lauren grew up along the coast and has always made it so the ocean is never far, and for this creative, water is a constant and a main source of inspiration. Read on as Lauren talks to us about her deeply personal process, why she was hesitant to turn art into a career and how to push through when the flow to create isn’t there.
You’re currently juggling a full-time job in marketing and design – did you always dream of becoming an artist?
I probably have always been an artist. It's funny because you know when you're little and your teacher or parents ask, what do you want to be when you grow up? My answer was always, an artist. For a very long time, I didn't think anything of it.
I have endeavored in a range of creative pursuits since I was a teenager. I went to acting school, I studied and worked in photography and graphic design. I even had a job in advertising at one point. I guess it wasn’t really until I began to work in interior design and architecture that I rediscovered my calling as an artist. It’s been a long journey, but I wouldn’t change anything because its lead me to where I am today.
How did you discover your style as an artist?
I was living in a big beautiful share house prior to the pandemic where I was lucky enough to have my own little studio space. It was there I discovered the beginning of the process’ that I have developed today to produce my MILK and FLOW pieces. It was A LOT of trial and error, I didn’t really refine the process until the beginning of 2021.
How has isolation been a catalyst for your work?
I'm not the most social person, so I enjoyed lockdown last year. I moved into my first apartment at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s a 1-bedroom apartment that I’ve also transformed into my art studio. It was nice to be alone with my thoughts and to be able to explore all these different processes without feeling guilty for forcing others to live amongst all of the trial and error / chaos that comes during the development phase. So, I would say I made the most of the experience because my home is my sanctuary. I love being immersed in my surroundings whenever I can.
Why do you create?
The meaning behind my art is deeply personal. It is what I'm feeling at the time. I have the skill to create something beautiful, but to do that, I need a driver. And my drivers are my humanness. Like a lot of people, I'm anxious about who I am, and often have insecurities about what people think of me. I seek validation as much as the next person but instead of resorting to self-destructive or attention seeking methods , I paint. It comes from a deep, dark place that I create something beautiful. Essentially, I'm putting all my negative energy into something that has a positive outcome.
At first, you were hesitant to sell your art – can you explain what your work means to you?
Probably about two years ago, a lot of people were encouraging me to sell my art – but I never wanted to. I never wanted to commercialise it because it was just so near and dear to me and it was such a huge part of my life. In a way, its kind of like selling a part of my soul. I didn't want to give that away to just anyone.
Your work mimics the subtle curves and organic composition of the natural world, and female form – has natural form always been a source of inspiration for you?
The natural form is where my inspiration stems. When I was working as a photographer, I used to photograph beautiful women and models, sometimes even nudes. I've always been interested in that softness and the curves that are so prevelent in the female form and water – I feel it’s just something that, when you look at it, makes you feel like you're floating. It's this euphoric feeling. I've worked with so many different mediums and materials over the years, and have really worked hard refine and relate my process back to this organic idea.
One of the things I love about water is the way it flows into itself when it's in the shallows and the way things are textural in the earth. It’s like organised chaos or an accidental masterpiece in a way.
Talk us through the concept behind your exhibition with us?
The pieces are harmonious with the McMullin & Co. aesthetic – a neutral palette and minimal yet textural layering. They are timeless and pair well with the beautiful homewares and furniture that McMullin & co. is known for. In creating the larger canvas’, I wanted them to be more detailed, to have that hero message that ties the collection together.
Then there's the smaller FLOW piece, which is composed of a natural resin. This reflects what you see when it's low tide at the beach and the water is running into itself – it's got those lovely, little ripples and movements.
The entire collection has a palette of beige and white which all work in harmony together or as a stand-alone piece.
Are you methodical or intuitive in your creative process?
A bit of both. I'm quite methodical in a way where I know when to apply certain materials. There is a process I must follow, as the pieces are quite layered, I need to let each layer dry. I have to make sure the foundations are set before I move onto the next step
However, I do find it difficult when I have a tight deadline as I need to plan out each day of the process – I can never follow it because a lot of my mood goes into each piece so sticking to a short timeline is difficult.
How do you push through this feeling?
You have to be very disciplined to make it work. Creatives are generally not very disciplined and just go with the flow, and if the flow isn’t there sometimes it is a matter of making myself do it anyway. But I mostly refrain from forcing the creative energy if it is lacking. And then sometimes I just need to paint. I need to create something. And I guess that's why I love it because out of my angst and insecurities or anxiety, I'll go paint and I'll create something really beautiful that will instantly just bring me out of that mood.
Is this what you hope your art evokes in others?
Yes, that sense of calmness. That's what I want to get across. Art is subjective, and people see all kinds of things but sometimes you don't need to look for a deeper meaning. Something can just be beautiful because it is beautiful.
How do you balance what you want to create with what's going to be commercially viable?
I am always open to what people want. If I get an enquiry about using a certain colour, I'll always consider it, but if it doesn't suit my aesthetic and who I am, then I politely decline.
Sometimes, if someone wants me to do something a little bit more complex, like at the moment I'm working on a sample for a client using aqua tones, just to see if it will work. Often I'll go and I'll try it and I'll spend the time, but I mean, there are some things that flat out don't work.
But I think most people respect what I do, which I find interesting that they are happy to go with whatever I propose. The most important thing is finding the balance between what will be considered commercially viable whilst also not losing my soul. As soon as it becomes transactional and loses its essence, I feel it impossible to continue. Being an artist is not just a business to me, it’s not transactional. I need to always believe in what I am creating. Without that, I don’t see the point.