Lucy Cleland recounts the story behind the latest cover of C&TH, which was created by artist Claire Luxton with a little help from Skydiamond.
Making The Cover: Interview with Artist Claire Luxton
The Regeneration Issue is, for me, always our most important issue of the year. I am a self-confessed ecophobe (at least some of the time), and action is the only thing to take the gnawingly anxious edge off. One day it’s almost overwhelming, another I can drink in the blissful elixir of hope. I’m far from alone, I know, and that in itself is a comfort.
The artist Claire Luxton, represented by art agency MTArt, feels it too, yet more often she comes out on the hopeful and optimistic side of the scales. Her works are very much rooted in nature – often with an exploration of the female form, culminating in colour-saturated visions of exquisite vulnerability.
It was her 2020 self-portrait Head in the Clouds that I fell in love with. I knew that a sort of summery iteration, ‘a new season’, as Claire describes it, would symbolise everything that we are trying to capture within this issue about how, although the world is in pain, the axis keeps on spinning and we just need to realign ourselves with Planet Earth rather than pitch ourselves against her, reclaiming the animist philosophy of being part of nature rather than the dualist one of trying to subjugate her. Because we know where that is heading.
And it is within our ken to do it, if only we could slow down, recalibrate, reassess and then act. Remember those curious, silent days of lockdown when nature was allowed her way and we revelled in her daily, unchecked unfurling? She literally and figuratively blossomed, and we noticed.
‘The environment and climate change is an overwhelming topic,’ says Claire, ‘and not always portrayed in the press in a way that makes it accessible to everyone in terms of how they might understand it. To communicate the subject through art and in a more optimistic way that makes people feel that there are still things to celebrate is, for me, a more empowering message.’
Her new iteration Cloud 9 is not only ethereally beautiful as a visual image, it is a meditation on dreaming decoded by the viewer in their own idiosyncratic way. ‘I like the idea that when you daydream,’ says Claire, ‘you are able to manifest and bring it into this world in a positive way. There are so many special and amazing things all around us and we just need to open our eyes to receive it.’
But Claire is not a naturalistic artist; she may find her ideas from nature but it’s our culture and modernity that also inform her. ‘With technology, we’re almost seeking this hyper-realism, an escapism into a more vibrant, brighter space than what we have in front of us. An instant dopamine hit,’ she says. ‘But really, I feel that what we have in front of us is better, so I liked this idea that we’ve also got our heads in a digital cloud and that we’re downloading everything into our minds. And then on top of that, the image is a manifestation of the weather and how our technological infrastructure is affecting it. So, there is a three-way thread linking these ideas up together.’
Partnering with Skydiamond as a company that literally takes greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere to create the purest, and most humanly desired, expression of nature – the diamond – shows us ways out of traditional extractive industries into realms where you lack for nothing but you’ve not exploited nature to get what you want.
‘I had my head in the clouds when I came up with the idea for Skydiamond,’ says founder Dale Vince, who is also behind renewable energy company Ecotricity. ‘It probably goes without saying, but the idea of making diamonds from thin air was pretty crazy. And that’s what everyone told me. That we have been able to do it though shows the power of imagination, dreams and doggedness. I have all three is abundance, especially the doggedness. And what we’ve done is modern alchemy, we make something valued from something less so – we make something we quite like to have from something we have too much of. For me, it’s a hearts and minds outcome – it shows what we can do if we put our minds to it. This is the kind of inventiveness we need to allow us to get to net zero without giving up the things we like to have or do.’
For Claire, the diamond symbolises time – and effort. ‘There are ways in which we can start to do things differently now with the knowledge that we have. And it might take time, but we’ll end up with something beautiful in the end.’
So perhaps, unlike the current mantra, we need to not just follow the science, but to also follow the art – it may eventually lead us more effectively to the place we need to be.