From juniper to pine snags, Molly Greene’s paintings showcase the interconnectedness of nature

The artist’s practice has developed from representations of the human, to the most basic elements of nature. How does she do it? By listening to her surroundings.

Date
14 May 2024

When we first spoke to the artist Molly Greene in 2019, her practice encompassed interpreting human hair through the lens of nature. With a portfolio populated with flowing waves and rope-like braids, her work had a peculiar spin on the features we see everyday.

With the opening of her solo show, Pseudopodia at Huxley Parlour Gallery in London, the artist has been reflecting on her practice from the moment of observation to the finished piece. “I think I’ve become more attentive to the interrelationships between individual paintings,” Molly tells us. “When I’m making work for a show, each painting feels like a distinct thought or utterance within a larger dialogue. I try to let the individual paintings develop without too much influence or pressure from the group,” she adds. This approach lends itself to a varied body of work ranging from louder to quieter pieces, softer pieces and others more abrasive. “These are usually pairs or trios of paintings that seem like siblings, as well as oddballs that feel irreconcilable with the group, until others come in and bridge the gap.”

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Molly Greene: Tunnel (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

Before beginning the paintings in Pseudopodia, Molly was noticing the presence of a number of juniper and pine snags in the high desert near her home in Los Angeles, California. She realised that a characteristic of the trunks was that they’d look alive despite being dead. “When the bark falls away it exposes twisting, gnarled cambium that almost looks like it’s flowing,” she shares. With this observation, the artist began thinking about the relationship between “movement and stillness” and specifically about all of the movement contained within something that appears to be still or lifeless. To corroborate this feeling, the artist started watching YouTube videos of magnified unicellular organisms and physical structures small animals use to manoeuvre through spaces. “I learned that the word ‘pseudopodia’ refers to a type of provisional arm that an amoeba [tiny one-celled organisms that are often studied in laboratories] extends outwards and then subsumes or retracts depending on the desirability of the new terrain,” she adds. “I was attracted to the idea that a constant fluctuation of interiority and exteriority could be a means to express preference or desire, even on such a small scale.”

Being that Molly applies her acrylic paint in thin layers with an airbrush, and using bright neon colours beneath layers of more muted tones on top, her oeuvre is the result of a particular meticulousness. “There are so many ways to crush my ideas, or to rush to prematurely resolve them as they’re quite amorphous. I’m generally impatient, so waiting for something to emerge at its own pace is difficult for me,” Molly tells us. In order to tame her instincts during this process, she approaches her paintings as something to be solved, or rather a solution to the problem of the preliminary drawings she creates. “I’ve been trying to trust the images and keep records of everything, and at this point there have been quite a few times that a little drawing made months or years ago suddenly makes sense.”

Pseudopodia is at once all immersive and stripped back and contemplative. The body of work encourages us to appreciate the depth of the nature that surrounds us and consider its inner workings. Molly doesn’t have a particular interpretation that she wants audiences to abide by, she is open to any and all engagement with the work. “I really appreciate that people can have interactions with the paintings that are beyond or outside of me and whatever I think I’m doing.”

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Molly Greene: Updraft (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Still (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Annex (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Clutch (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Parachute (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Pelt (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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Molly Greene: Spall (Copyright © Molly Greene, 2024, image courtesy Huxley-Parlour, London)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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