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Merlin Glozier's Outside World

Abstract forest foliage and beasts of folklore appear in the British artist's dark and haunting imagery

The haunting three-quarter portraits filled with forest foliage and strange beasts by British artist Merlin Glozier might resemble folkloric medieval art but, as she tells Dazed Digital, the inspiration for them comes from much more unexpected places. Surprised by some people’s interpretations of her work, finding it too dark and eerie to have facing them while they eat, Glozier is a remarkably optimistic character who is simply producing quirkily charming paintings she finds “happy and lovely”.

Dazed Digital: The colour palette is quite dark and even in the paintings where brights are incorporated, such as an azure blue or hot yellow, they have quite an ominous quality – do you feel your work is pessimistic?
Merlin Glozier:
No, not pessimistic at all. Some people think it’s a bit scary but I don’t set out to do that I set out to make something beautiful but somehow, maybe because of my nature, and you do make choices of what you put in and leave out, I can’t help it (laughs). I can’t help it all, it just kind of works like that; no matter what I do something weird happens. I try to make something happy and lovely.

DD: When you’re looking at your own work do you see what people mean when they say it’s quite dark?
Merlin Glozie: Not really, no. Sometimes people have brought work back if they’ve been given it and they feel that it’s too much for them to have on their wall; they would like something a little more conventional, something that is not too difficult. I think it’s strange but I think it just depends on people’s personalities, the way they were brought up, or the way that they see the world, they dislike it if something is raising questions that are too difficult for them; they don’t want to eat their dinner looking at my work.

DD: You say that people find your work quite medieval, is medieval art an influence on you?
Merlin Glozier:
I spent a lot of time in the forest and that is my main inspiration, which is why people might think there is a medieval influence there too. Anyone who does that kind of painting with light and dark and three quarter portraiture, people will think you’re referring to 15th century painting somehow. But calling the work medieval was someone else's observation.

DD: The inclusion of animals, particularly the mythical part-human beasts add weight to a medieval folkloric feel probably.
Merlin Glozier:
Well, yes they are, I suppose. I was putting cats in and then dogs and then learned dogs because they didn’t quite look like dogs anymore, they looked like strange beasts so then you make it more interesting and confuse people by putting a human face on an animal body. One of the women has a little pig’s tail.

DD: So if that’s not from a traditional folklore or mythical influence, where did you get the idea of adding those kinds of elements?
Merlin Glozier:
I read this book, an American novel, about these people who are modern day freaks and one of them has a daughter who somehow grew up to be absolutely perfect and she grew up to be a stripper but it turned out she had a little pig’s tail. I thought, ‘Well, how very strange’. But I wonder if people are ever born like that sometimes. I broke my little coccyx when I gave birth to my son so I am very aware of the tailbone. I was reading it and I thought, ‘How absolutely strange’, and also the eroticism of something like that – it’s not erotic if she had two heads but to have a perfect little pig’s tail that you can wag…

Work by Merlin Glozier is on show at the Outside World Gallery, 44 Redchurch Street, 
London E2. From 23rd-26th June