For our fourth interview of artists taking part in the Talented Art Fair, we travelled to West Yorkshire to meet with Isobel Cortese whose miniature worlds might look innocent from a distance but tell a completely different story when seen close up….
In just a few words, who are you and what do you do?
I am Isobel Cortese and I am an artist working in miniature.
What is your background?
Traveller; mother; self-taught artist…
How would you describe your work?
Darkly comic, quirky, intriguing and thought provoking.
Where did the idea of creating those miniature worlds come from?
It all began with a piece of schoolwork that my son came home with about how to make a bottle garden. What started as a verdant adventure, has now grown into something much more meaningful and exciting.
Would you say your work has become more political in recent times?
Yes definitely. I realised that I needed to create art that was meaningful to me, and that reflected my beliefs and concerns about the world.
My Syria series, for instance, documents the plight of refugees and their treacherous journey from war-torn countries to Europe, where they hope to find safety. It is such a huge crisis that it is difficult to comprehend from the comfort of our homes. I tried to capture the magnitude of this movement in miniature, to portray the massive obstacles these people face.
Similarly, I created the 'Beastly Imaginarium' collection, as I wanted to make something humorous but with a meaningful story. There is so much animal cruelty in the world and I hope to provoke contemplation about our relationship with animals.
Talk us through the creative process, from the initial concept to the final work.
Once I have an idea, I create quick sketches and write notes describing what I want each scene to contain. When I feel I have enough material to work from, I gather all that I need to start creating. I always refer back to my original notes, which are adapted throughout the process as the work evolves.
Who and what are your biggest influences?
Travelling has always been a big part of my life and has influenced my views on the world greatly; it is the people that I have met along the way, who are living their lives differently that inspire me.
Who would you say are your favourite contemporary artists?
Jimmy Cauty: unsurprisingly, I love his “Riot in a Jam Jar” miniatures!
Banksy: ace street art with subversive messages, the way it should be.
Maïssa Toulet: a French artist who creates some amazingly crafted and beautiful curiosity cabinets.
What makes you get up and create art?
Deadlines! And, of course, my passion and urge to create! New ideas energise me, I feel really excited when starting a new project and I love the creative buzz!
Are you planning something special for the Talented Art Fair?
I am producing limited edition art prints of close up images of some miniature scenes for the first time, especially for the fair! I’m very excited about that!
I’ve also been making a series of tiny scenes inside apothecary bottles, which are new additions to the “Beastly Imaginarium” collection: each depicts a role-reversal hunting scene, in which the humans are the unlucky ones.
Talented Art Fair
17-19 March 2017 The Old Truman Brewery