British contemporary artist Claire Luxton discusses dreams, perfection and vulnerability

Claire Luxton

The Answers With… Claire Luxton, a British contemporary and multi-disciplinary artist who brings dreams to life. Here, she talks about honesty, vulnerability and an NFT collaboration with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

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Claire Luxton. Photo by Claire Luxton

Hi Claire, what’s it like to be you?  

Being me is a rollercoaster. No two days are the same—each is filled with surprises, adaptation, evolution and growth. A lot of people do not see the hard work that goes behind the fun things I am able to share as an artist. I think that the growth and evolution that comes from hard work is very exciting.  

What’s the first thing that you do when you go into your studio in the morning? 

I make myself a coffee, sit in my loveseat and look out at the trees while organising my day with lists. I am a big advocate of lists and planning; while I love spontaneity and the fact that every day is different, I also really value the aspects of my life that I can have control, which allows structure within the chaos. 

What important issues are fuelling your art these days? 

A lot stem from personal experiences, such as vulnerability as a woman and prejudices towards women. The experience of beauty within the world, both historically when referenced in art as well as modern society, and the advancement of technology, such as with filters, how we communicate and how that impacts our mental health and personas. 

Many have asked me to create a collection of collectible NFTs, but it was important to wait for the right partnership. Given the established relationship I’ve built with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, it was only natural to collaborate. The brand’s ability to transcend a multitude of cultures is inspiring and the project has let me transform my original work for InterContinental into contemporary digital artworks. Each is a memento of the elegance of worldly travel—a theme at the heart of our partnership. (Find out how you may bid on an exclusive NFT here.)

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A Claire Luxton NFT brought to life at the InterContinental Singapore lobby. Photo by InterContinental Singapore

Describe your artistic process.

The process is something I have worked on and honed for years but it’s still changing, developing and evolving. My work is heavily research-based, so that’s always my starting point. Reading a book, going to museums, going to historical sites like castles, taking pictures. I am often working for a specific client or on a site-specific location for a public installation, but even when it comes to my own personal art, it’s often stimulated by something I have read or seen. 

Once I have this foundation of research set-up, I go into the sketching phase, where I start to plan out colour, composition, props, lighting, depth, details, texture and more. Then I go into procurement mode and source the things I need. This includes props, backdrops, set build, lighting, wigs, makeup, etc. This is when I delve deep to figure out how the work is going to be constructed. Everything needs to be focused and designed so that when I am shooting, everything can fall into place. I then go into post-production, editing images and/or videos. This phase varies. 

What is this relationship between humans and nature that you want to explore? 

The relationship between humans and nature is always at the heart of my work, and I think this goes back to my focus on vulnerability. I feel that more people became aware of our relationship with nature during COVID-19. Nature is an incredibly powerful, yet vulnerable thing that we have adapted, affected, and changed with our lives on the planet in terms of how we use and to an extent, abuse the planet. 

On the flip side, humans are equally if not more vulnerable to the whims and power of nature. I find the duality and juxtaposition between the two very interesting.  

Your portraits look like dreams brought to life. Are your dreams a big part of your creative process? 

Yes, dreams have always been a part of my creativity and inspiration. I am a heavy dreamer, and I dream most nights. My dreams are vivid, like my imagination. I am also a big daydreamer. I am very interested in blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, physicality and technology, as well as historical and contemporary references.  

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Every Claire Luxton self-portrait looks like a dream brought to life. Photo by Claire Luxton

Has creativity always come naturally to you? 

Creativity is a core part of my everyday life and personality. My mum always jokes that I have been an artist since I was in the womb. During Christmas, I would more often play with the packaging and boxes from my gifts, turning them into art, fortresses, and installations since I was three years old. While creativity is natural to me, it is still something that needs to be looked after and nurtured. Whilst it is a gift, it can also be a burden and a strain. It needs to be cared for and fed, much like the soul.   

What does honesty look like in a self-portrait? 

Honesty in a self-portrait comes from vulnerability. In my portraits, I like to dig deep to a point that is uncomfortable and unsettling to me. When I have this feeling, I know that I am on the right track. I do not want to rest on my laurels or sit in my comfort zone; I want to have discussions and experiences that are challenging and push boundaries within myself. I use myself as a vehicle/canvas, so I am not interested in what I look like in the artwork. Instead, I focus on the composition and storytelling, and how that allows the artwork to evoke a narrative.  

Do you work with assistance or do you work best on your own? 

I am a one-woman team! I have never worked with assistance, and I do all set design, lighting, hair, makeup, research, post-production, pre-production, procurement… everything that you see. While I have worked with some fabulous hair and makeup artists to meet certain client requirements for specific projects, I am a control freak when it comes to my work—I feel like my best work is achieved on my own. 

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‘Hope’, a piece the artist considers her magnum opus. Photo by Claire Luxton

What is the one piece of work you regard as your magnum opus? 

My artwork, Hope. Among all my works, this piece generated the most conversations globally. I created it during a time that I needed hope, and it generated a feeling of hope amongst the collectors that bought it at the time. I have this work tattooed on my arm as it is symbolically the most important to me and marks an important time in my career.  

The hardest part about any piece of art is knowing how to finish it. How do you know a piece of work is complete and therefore, perfect? 

When I can leave a piece of work and don’t feel the need to go back to it. I will often destroy a piece of work because I am unhappy with it. A lot of work has never seen the light of day. I often feel a level of satisfaction if there is something I am discussing within the work or can see how the narrative is forming. I am a perfectionist, but I strive for perfection within the form as opposed to specific things being finished in somebody else’s eyes. It needs to sit right with me and for me to not want to tweak it further.  

What kind of impact do you hope that your work has? 

I want my work to cause people to stop—even for a moment—and spark off a conversation around it. I want my art to have the power to remove them from the everyday, to transport their moods and thought processes with a single sight of the artwork. 

Is it enough that it’s beautiful? 

It’s not enough for my artwork to be beautiful. Beauty is a topic that is interesting and important to me. I feel beauty is easily misconstrued especially in today’s society. Beauty can be so much more than what we perceive beauty to be. Narratives, emotions, conversations, storytelling, historical references and most importantly, contexts need to come alongside beauty.  

Claire Luxton