Beatrix Haxby

East Street Arts

Beatrix Haxby is a multidisciplinary artist, whose Dalinian dreamscapes and calisthenics stunts are suffused with imagination, eroticism, vulnerability and strength.

Her work centres around surrealism and the performance of calisthenics, which is a form of strength training.

Beatrix has been a studio holder with us since 2021, one of two Leeds Art Graduate residents. We met with Bea to discuss her art and upcoming exhibition with us in the Patrick Studios Project Space this September…

“I’m a surrealist painter and calisthenics performance artist. I think the two converge in the shared use of illusion; in painting: the conventions of realism, perspective, trompe l’oeil – and in calisthenics it can look like you’re flying or walking on air.

The performance element is a recent addition. The pandemic turned so many performance artists into video artists, losing the urgency and thrill of a live audience – which I really want to experience!”

Bea implements a quasi-daily regimen of going to the gym in the morning, online life drawing classes, working on current paintings and then dance choreography. Although this sounds like quite an intense schedule, Bea feels like she is on a mission;

“It makes you feel like Gal Gadot or Chris Hemsworth training for a Hollywood role”

When discussing her defining style, Bea told us about two of her most recent creations – Medusa’s Lair and Pigeon Eyeshadow;

“Medusa’s Lair and Pigeon Eyeshadow best define my painting style. I am always trying to paint scenes that are best suited for the medium of painting, which confers the latitude of total imagination and perpetual fine-tuning. What is interesting about being an artist is that your pathologies become your sensibility. As a chronic over thinker, in my preparation for my next painting I’ve spent the past 4 months filling up a sketchbook with brainstorms, draft paintings, plasticine maquettes, architecture studies around the city, perspective calculations and so on.

I am beginning the piece on canvas next week. Much like my apine namesake (Bea) my artistic fertility culminates in the production of one big thing a year. I do hope to speed this up which I think will come from fluidity and confidence in my painting ability which my residency has already given me”

Alongside her paintings, Bea also combines performance and calisthenics into her practice;

“On the performance side, I am absolutely hooked on a calisthenics genre called ‘bar dance’ which I recently learned about. People do pull-up variations with choreographed footwork so they look like they’re dancing on air. I don’t think that people take it far enough with the footwork though. I think its because they’re drawing from conventional footwork, for example shuffling, which is limited by gravity. You learn how to move left and right, back and forth, but not off the ground – so there is room for innovation in this area

Embedded in Bea’s work is a surrealism that touches upon spiritualism and repetition. When discussing her artwork, it was clear that a spiritual and philosophical essence submerges her thinking process, inevitably filtering into her paintings and performance pieces;

“I tend to read Freud’s repetition compulsion into every artist’s work. Something happened to you as a kid that manifested as an unresolved mystery. An obsession, which you as an adult continually revisit in your work. When I think about what that was for me, it was a supernatural experience I had when I was 14 where a bright white light filled my field of vision. I learned many years later that Hinduism terms this a ‘kundalini awakening’. It was ecstatic but disorienting and led to a lot of rumination about phenomenology, delusion, spiritual awakening and so on…

As Freud’s repetition compulsion would have it, I am compelled to paint scenes of maximal unreality with maximal realism. When I say maximal unreality, that brings to mind abstract art, which is defined by lack of resemblance to the material world. But I choose to give my subject matter the formal treatment of high realism, as a way of saying yes, things of mystical, visionary beauty can really happen in the real world. Staking a truth claim to the validity of (oft-derided) mystical, altered states of consciousness. The idea of art as being about visionary beauty might sound like something that your culturally conservative, Roger-Scruton-reading art lecturer might foist upon you. Browbeat you into the highbrow. But for me, it really is emotionally resonant”

You can find out more about Beatrix Haxby’s work over on her website here.

Watch this space for Bea’s exhibition coming to the East Street Arts Project Space in September 2022!