Folklore and culture explored in Brighton artist’s paintings

[This story was published on February 10 in the Brighton and Hove Independent. Read the original story at]

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[Image: Elle in her studio]

A ‘sense of wonder and curiosity’ informs the work of Brighton artist Elle Sorridente, who is inspired by the natural landscape in her hometown.

Coming from a family with a mixed French Arab, Italian and British heritage, Elle, who creates paintings in gouache and watercolour, says that this background of mixed cultures is fundamental to her as an artist.

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[Image: Rebirth, by Elle Sorridente]

Elle said: “Like many families we’ve lost most of our history and language in the movement of time, but have retained a real love, almost longing, for other cultures, peoples and places.

“This prevailing sense of curiosity and wonder at the differences that make us and shape us is very important to me, especially the way they manifest in our paintings, music, dance, poetry and all forms of expression.”

Cultural identity formed by and represented in stories and folk tales is a theme that Elle continually returns to in her paintings.

“To me stories, whether family narratives, or myths and folktales from our birthplace make up our roots and form an often neglected point of reference for our adult selves,” she said.


[Image: Ways of Seeing, by Elle Sorridente]

Her work, which features disembodied hands, stag antlers and hummingbirds, represented in a bright palette of pinks, turquoises, yellows and blues, evokes associations with esoteric or spiritual iconography.

“I am fascinated by the influences that language, culture, folklore and geography have upon art forms and the way these are shifting, osmosive and sometimes ephemeral as people move around the world”, said Elle.

“From this bedrock has grown within me a love of colour and pattern, shape and light, and most importantly stories. Our narratives shape our cultural identities – they form part of the collective unconscious that we inhabit.”

Interacting with the world around her is crucial to Elle in the creation of her work.

She said: “Essential to my process is getting out, exploring and grounding myself in the world, whether that’s woodlands, rugged coastlines, moorlands or a new city. Different locations add their own stimulus, flavour and interpretations of folkloric concepts and themes within a contemporary context.”

The artist, who also enjoys photography as a way of interpreting the world, has lived in Brighton for a year.

“It’s been the easiest place to settle in by far,” Elle said. “I was born on the coast and moved around a fair amount but as an adult I’ve always clung to the sea. I need those open horizons and blue waves. I love towns and cities, the energy and opportunities are essential for me but my soul also craves a deep and profound wildness, and the sea offers me a window into that.”

Along with her fascination with the natural world, Elle also emphasises the interconnectedness of the world in her paintings.

She said: “My work mostly focuses on ideas around the collective unconscious, our stories and myths, and how these interact and evolve in an increasingly globalised world where migration and peripatetic lifestyles are increasingly commonplace.

“Old myths are my favourites, the dark ones full of fears and wild natures, observations on humanity and our relationship with our natural surroundings. My nature is drawn to the wilder, rawer elements, to those hard to express feelings we get about things, people and places and where that comes from. Today we have access to so many narratives, both old and new oral, aural, visual and written. I seek the seeds that contain some nebulous quality that touches some old chord within us.”

Click here to find out more about Elle’s work.

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