In Conversation with Georg Wilson
26 April 2022

You graduated with a BA in Art History from the University of Oxford in 2020. How does your art history knowledge and experience inform your own artistic practise? Are there any specific periods in art history that you draw on or are inspired by?

My practice has always been heavily informed by my history of art degree - when I begin a series of work, I start by researching, reading essays and fiction. At the moment I am particularly influenced by medieval herbal manuscripts and folklore about botany. There are some particular manuscripts I have seen in the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford from as early as the 14th century which draw a scientific knowledge of English flora and fauna together with a magical repertoire of folklore and local custom.

How did you find that your work changed or developed when you made the shift from being an art history student to studying painting at the RCA? Did you find the shift to full-time studio work a difficult one?

I had always wanted to dedicate more time to my art practice but the demands of my university degree prevented it, so it was a complete joy to be able to finally spend every day in the studio when I started at the RCA. I think now that I have committed nearly two years exclusively to my art practice, the work has become looser, more imaginative and open, relying less on existing knowledge and moving deeper towards my own storytelling and world-building.

Myth, legend and folklore are major sources of inspiration throughout your work, is this something you’ve always been interested in exploring, or something you’ve started engaging with more recently? What is it that has drawn you to myth and folklore?

I have been drawn to folklore and myths my whole life, since my parents read me Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm as a child. I spent a lot of time in Cornwall growing up, where folklore is intrinsically buried within the landscape - every coastline, valley and well has its own story of creatures and magic. When I grew too old to believe in these childhood stories, my practice picked them up. I believe that these narratives can help us to re-engage with the natural landscape and to appreciate its autonomy and magic outside of the human world. Such narratives can also aid us to perceive nature’s importance beyond a utilitarian or capitalist perspective.

Shades of green, yellow and orange recur throughout many of your paintings, what is the significance of the colour palette you use?

My paintings are about the entangled oozing thorny rooted budding liveliness of the changing seasons and the endless surprises this cycle provides.
Chard Baby’s sludgy browns and vivid greens conjure the saturation of mid summer, when chard is in abundance in the garden.

We really enjoy how you weave elements of humour and playfulness into your paintings, can you tell us about the role this plays in your broader practise?

Humour will always remain integral to my work, because I see the relationship between humans, creatures and nature as a constantly-ridiculous and weird one! Many English folkloric customs and superstitions’ origins are now lost to us, and yet we still regularly practise and enjoy the silliness of them. Humour also makes things more accessible - it’s a device to draw people in, to suspend their disbelief and enter a weird world that is somehow more closely entwined with nature and the history of England.