Manc of the Month: Lisa Denyer

Lisa Denyer’s work is bold, dynamic and powerful, but on a tiny scale. The contrast in her work is intriguing, and that is why she is February’s Manc of the Month. We recently discovered Lisa’s works at Paper Gallery in Manchester, and she has ties with PS Mirabel also. Lisa’s work has taken her oversees to Berlin where she now lives and works. Read on to see how she compares the two cities, and why you should be raiding your DIY cupboard to add texture to your paintings.

Cotton On MCR: How would you summarise your style of work?

Lisa Denyer: “I’m currently making small-scale abstract paintings which pair geometric elements with spontaneous brushwork. My work looks at the contrast between the slow, considered process of painting compared to the sensory overload of daily life, and how contemporary painting deals with those polarities.”

CO: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?

LD: “I think that visual details infiltrate the work from things I see on a daily basis. Inspiration comes from ideas about the body, the physical world including the built environment, the virtual, and the relationship we have with the different kinds of spaces we inhabit. I paint to understand physical form and make sense of things to a certain extent.”

CO: Your canvases are quite small (the above image ‘PB&J’ is 15x10cm), is there a reason for this scale?

LD: “Working on a small-scale emphasizes the physical attributes of texture and weight, highlighting the paintings status as a physical object rather than just a flat plain. There is a focus on each gestural mark because it makes up a such a large surface area of the composition, and on the edges where the paint builds up and describes something of the process.

In her piece ‘Horizon’ below, Lisa paints on sandpaper. She explains to us that this creates textural patterns and qualities in her work as it can hold a lot of paint.

LD: “I’m really drawn to everyday materials like plywood, board and sandpaper as this creates a lot of freedom during the making process. Sandpaper is wonderful to paint on. I really enjoy the interaction of the paint on such a raw surface. I use a lot of household emulsions for their chalky/glossy textures too. Lately I’ve also been incorporating filler into the compositions.”

As I mentioned earlier, Lisa’s work is currently on display at Paper Gallery/PS Mirabel studios. We noticed on Lisa’s CV she had a solo exhibition at Paper back in 2016.

CO: Tell us about your connection with PS Mirabel.

LD: “I’m represented by Paper Gallery, based at Mirabel Studios. They are extremely supportive and have provided me with a lot of the opportunities I’ve had recently to build connections with curators, collectors and galleries abroad.

I received first prize in the PS Mirabel Open in 2015 and subsequently had a solo exhibition there the following year. Working towards it really pushed my paintings forward and paved the way stylistically for the work I’ve been making since I’ve been in Berlin. I’ve had a studio at Mirabel for the past few years, and I’ve really missed it since I’ve been away!”

CO: What took you over to Berlin?

LD: “I visited Berlin for a week and was completely blown away by the art scene, just the sheer amount of galleries and project spaces – there are hundreds. I decided to start applying for residencies straight away, and I was lucky enough to get one at Galerie Martin Mertens which started in November 2016.

There is a big focus on painting here which is great. Aside from that, the city is incredibly exciting and visually rich which I think has helped my paintings to develop. I’m discovering new galleries here and meeting artists all the time. I try to go and check out different shows every week, there’s always something good to see.”

As proud Mancunians, we wanted to know how Lisa compared the two cities.

LD: “Studios are quite expensive here, it’s definitely easier to have one in Manchester. I think it’s great that new ones are opening all the time in Manchester too. I went to opening of Paradise Works when I was last in town and I think that Lucy Harvey and Hilary Jack have done an incredible job there.

Berlin is a bigger city, there are more galleries here and more artists. It feels quite easy to survive here as a freelancer, so many people are doing it. But then I also think that Manchester is heading in that direction too. I think Manchester’s art scene is generally very supportive, and you’ll always see someone you know at a preview, which isn’t always the case in Berlin.”

You can see Lisa’s passion for art when we asked her about her favourite artists and exhibitions.

CO: What was the best exhibition you have ever been to?

LD: “I have to name a few here! There are three painting shows that always stick in my mind; Peter Doig at Tate Britain was a real turning point for me – it was the surfaces of his paintings that I found so surprising and really seductive. The variation of textures is something you just can’t get a sense of by looking at his work online or in a book.

Per Kirkeby at the Tate Modern was an important exhibition for me because I saw this show around the time when I was making the transition from landscape to a more abstract visual language. He was a big influence during this period.

Mali Morris had a show at Mostyn Gallery a few years back which I loved. I find her paintings really captivating in terms of the way she layers and excavates colour. I like to look at a painting and not be able to figure out exactly how it was made. I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit with her through Paper Gallery since I saw her exhibition in Wales, which was a dream come true.”

CO: Who is your favourite artist?

LD: “That’s a really difficult question, it changes all the time! I’ve been looking at Jonathan Lasker’s work a lot recently, just online. I find his paintings really exciting, I really like his use of impasto and would love to see them in person. I’m interested in how he transposes the qualities of smaller paintings and drawings into his larger scale works.”

And to end with the staple Cotton On MCR question:

CO: If you could live in any painting/artwork, which would it be?

LD: “One that immediately comes to mind is ‘A Hilly Scene’ by Samuel Palmer. It’s one of the most soothing, calming depictions of landscape I’ve ever seen. It’s so evocative that I can almost smell the earth and the feel texture of the plants and moss. The colours are wonderfully luminescent and jewel-like. The way the moon and star appear to nestle in the branches of the tree, it’s just magic.”

Find out more about Lisa by visiting her website –

If you think you could be a ‘Manc of the Month’, then get in touch! We want to hear about your work, or what you’ve got coming up. Drop us a message on our contact page.

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