Ele Pack’s new beginnings and emotion-filled abstracts

To celebrate the release of our latest collection of Ele Pack prints, we catch up with the artist to discuss her recent move to Derbyshire, and how the events of the past few years have taken her work in a new direction.

Q: Hi Ele, it’s great to catch up with you. Our first print collection with you was based on very loose ‘ethereal’ cloudlike forms, whereas your more recent works feel much more structured - how has this evolved? 

A: Yes, the last collection of work appeared to be actually stretching and reaching outside of the canvas, and this was definitely related to the environment around me. 

Over the past 13 years I have painted full time in my studio in Brighton, and living by the sea undoubtedly had an influence, giving it an organic fluid quality. The work seemed to need to expand, looking to find its own identity, and referencing the natural world through an abstract language.

Over more recent years, when I look back at my work, I notice my paintings have become flatter and darker. I tend to work instinctively, and on reflection, the influence of the pandemic and a major bereavement had undoubtedly had an impact.

Then at a certain point I started to use dots. First they were individual dots, like little dots of energy appeared, which then grouped… and grew… and began to dance across the canvas! This felt like a positive energy to me - that something had shifted and that there was movement and energy, floating and flying free.

Silent Movie, Ele Pack

Q: Have you found the process for evolving these works has also changed?

A: I have started using grids in my work over the last few years. These feel anchoring, like there is a definite structure and climbing frame to support the work to grow.

I have used spray paint in all of these works. The nature of using this material creates a way of working that has a flow, and a speed that is a very organic way of painting. 

You have to move quickly across the surface of the canvas as the spray is coming out, which creates an immediacy and instinctive way of working. The speed of the spray means that you are moving, almost before the thought. 

I have also started using pencil a lot more, I love using pencil on canvas and board. The pencil has such a delicate sensitivity and responsiveness. I love how it can be softened and smudged. A medium that can show such sensitivity and vulnerability. 

Then they flew, Ele Pack

‘Being able to work in the evenings, or whenever feels so much more natural and intuitive’

Ele Pack

Q: We know you have just made a big move away from Brighton to the Derbyshire countryside, has this had any impact on your work already? 

A: Moving to Derbyshire is a life changing move. We have moved to a beautiful Georgian house in Chesterfield. I have wanted to have my own studio at home for a while now and for my work to be more integrated into my life, and having a studio at home, I am able to go to my studio whenever I want. Being able to work in the evenings, or whenever feels so much more natural and intuitive.

It is also a private space, one that I don’t have to share, so I am not distracted or pulled out of my flow. There is such freedom and joy in this uninterrupted creativity. It’s also warm! There wasn’t heating in my previous studio, so not being cold in a 2 degrees temperature studio is a welcome relief!

Our new home is surrounded by trees, and although we are by no means rural, out of every window we can see greenery and trees. We are just a ten minute drive from the Peak District, which is breathtaking. I love visiting the lakes nearby, and that reinforces that sense of physical and mental freedom. 

Although we’ve only been here three weeks, this already feels hugely important, and I think this renewed connection with nature will have an important effect on my sense of self, and my work. We have the luxury of being in a house that is surrounded by space and light, and that feeds our creativity.    

The view from Ele’s home studio
A local lake close to her new Derbyshire home

Q: What materials do you mainly use to create your work?

A: I mainly use acrylic paints. This enables me to paint quickly and put lots of layers over each other to create a richly nuanced painting.

I also use crayons and water-resistant pencils to create finely drawn marks. I like to use gold and silver as it really enlightens your work with a powerful charge. Recently I’ve had an urge to sew on top of my paintings – it’s like an extra layer of drawing.

Q: What are the main themes to your work? Do you draw on personal experiences?

A: Emotional connection. Creating my own sensibility and personal language within a visual form. Everything you are, you see and experience feeds into your work.

Q: Do you have a favourite painting outfit?

A: For a while, I tried to dress very practically for the studio but then found that it was affecting my mood which makes sense as my job is all about the visual.

So now I try to wear something that lifts me; silver shoes, leopard print or my favourite yellow blouse all bring me joy.

I also wear two fabulous rings designed by the jeweller Tanja Ufer which are repurposed from my mum’s engagement ring. They are things of beauty with a strong emotional connection and make me feel uplifted and inspired.

Ele’s silver shoes in the studio

Q: Describe your working environment – do you prefer music or silence?

A: I find listening to music and podcasts an essential part of my working practice. I love ‘WTF’ with Marc Maron and ‘How to Fail’ with Elizabeth Day is also excellent.

It’s mainly conversations with creative people. I like the truth of honest, vulnerable conversations and connections.

I also love any music with a good flow like Joanna Newsome, Radiohead, Beyonce, and James Blake. Sometimes, I even find a Disney soundtrack helps if I’m feeling anxious and on a tight deadline!

Somehow having something to take you out of yourself, and get your rhythms flowing is when exciting things can be expressed. It makes me less self-conscious of what I’m doing and able to make decisions on an intuitive, emotional level.

Q: How would you describe the life of an artist in less than 5 words?

A: Beautiful. Unpredictable. Cathartic. Essential. Life-saving.

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