An In-depth Chinwag With Local Artist fortyonehundred

Trippy fractals, flowing mandalas and everything you need to know about fortyonehundred.

You might have heard of fortyonehundred. You might actually be one of her 100K Instagram followers. If so, you’d know that the 22-year-old local Wellington artist, who also goes by Lizzie Snow, is producing some incredibly intricate and sought after mandala artworks and free-flow murals. And, as far as commissions and exhibitions go, things are starting to kick off.

In the last few months, the young dog-lover (she has a toy poodle called George) has collaborated with Peugeot New Zealand and lululemon, and recently painted mural commissions in Canada and Hawaii. So to say the last year has been massive for the young artist is an understatement.

Next on the fortyonehundred calendar is a solo exhibition, which will be her final project for her Masters of Fine Arts degree at Victoria University. Drawing inspiration from fractals in nature and exploring ideas surrounding interconnection and the human experience, it’s easy to get lost in the exhibition’s inebriating artworks. They’re both complicated and calming, and dizzying in the best possible way.

Before the exhibition doors are opened, we caught up with fortyonehundred, to see what makes Lizzie Snow tick.

Is there a story behind the name, fortyonehundred?

Yes! 41 is the latitude coordinate of Wellington. ‘100’ is a number representative of wholeness – which links to my use of the circle, my conceptual interests and contemporary exploration of the mandala. I’m fascinated by the intersection between art, mathematics, science and nature, so this name resonates with a lot of different ideas that have a relationship with my artwork.

Who do you look up to? Who inspires you?

My major inspirations are Yayoi Kusama, Ernst Haeckl and Alex Grey. They are incredible artists – definitely worth taking a look.

My father has been a major inspiration to me too – he is such a hardworking, talented, driven person – while always being so selfless, positive, modest and kind. My whole family actually, all my amazing friends – and of course my dog George.

In your eyes, which artists are killing it right now?

Five artists whose work is insanely good:

Gina Kiel (@ginakielillustration),
 Mica Still (@micastill),
 Sean Duffell (@sean_duffell), Hannah Jensen (@hannahjensenart), and Yoii (@_yoiiii).

You have to go look at each of their Instagram pages – so much talent. These artists blow me away everyday.

Most of us share or have shared a studio with each other, which is awesome. Wellington and New Zealand has a really unique and connected art community. I promise I’m not biased! I was in love with all their work before I met or worked with any of them. They are incredible and each so different.

How did you first discover mandalas?

I’ve always been drawing – over the years it became more and more structured, purposeful and accurate. So I was drawing intricate circles and mandalas before I even knew what they were. Then, once I started learning about them, I found them everywhere; as snowflakes, eyeballs, cacti, seashells, the moon, the earth, artworks transcending across all cultures, atoms, hurricanes, – also metaphorically and conceptually.

The mandala is an incredible thing and I learn more about it everyday. The more you know the less you know … you know?

Let’s talk fractals. You credit naturally occurring fractals as inspiration – is this snow flakes, romanesco broccoli, shells and the like? Or have you fallen down the geometrical rabbit hole and discovered next dimension fractals? Fractals are intriguing, beautiful and undeniably trippy – is this part of the appeal? What do you love about fractals and mandalas?

Totally – you got it! I first discovered fractals with one of my best friends, Claudia. We were tripping out about how all these beautiful shapes in nature had this similar intrinsic quality but we couldn’t quite figure it out. Once we discovered fractals, our minds were blown. This is how I got onto this crazy path, love and obsession for fractals. I’ve read so many books about fractals, wrote my thesis on them and they’ve totally changed the way I create and think about art.

The way I create mandalas is by taking inspiration from fractals. I abstract the patterns I see and then reconstruct them through scaling, symmetry and repetition. I find that my work is meditative and mesmerising to create and hypnotic to view. Fractals allow us to visualise our immense interconnection with nature – just start by comparing the pattern of your veins to the branching of a tree.

You recently hit 100K followers on Instagram, congrats! It’s well deserved.

Thank you! How crazy is that, right? I feel so honoured that so many people have chosen to join my art journey. I pour a lot of energy into my online presence and interactions, and in turn it gives a lot of energy and motivation back to me.

People tend to criticise the use of social media for many reasons (which is a fascinating topic in itself) – but here’s the thing – it’s your portfolio! When people find your artwork, what they see is what they think – so I’m always conscious of the imagery, theme, quality, text and body of work I present online.

My analogue art is the drawing and painting, my digital art is the photography and daily online exhibiting – it’s all art, art comes in many forms. I think this kind of thinking has helped me grow this amazing community of 100,000 people that love and support my work, and I am so grateful for every single person.

Your works are insanely intricate and have an almost overwhelming flow to them that makes them seem like they’re growing. How would you describe your art? How about “Geometric flow with psychedelia and inter-dimensional chaos”?

Wow, that’s an awesome description! Haha. That’s a good point though. I do struggle with the idea of being lumped into titles such as a “NZ artist”, “mandala artist”, “young artist”, etc. They’re all fine, but I currently choose to describe myself as a “contemporary visual artist”, as it allows me to evolve and progress. I do love your description though, maybe that’ll be next!

Congrats also on your upcoming show – tell us about that.

Thank you! I’m so excited. It’s my first solo exhibition, after being part of 10 group shows over the past four years.

The opening night is Thursday the 15th at 6pm. It runs from the 15th – 27th February at the Potocki Paterson Art Gallery. 41-47 Dixon Street. They gallery is really beautiful – it’s upstairs, on the corner of Cuba/Dixon, opposite Memphis Belle coffee house, next to Mexico restaurant.

This body of work explores the disconnect people feel with nature, trying to inspire people to reconnect by being immersed in a gallery space full of fractal inspired artworks. Even though I have documented the show’s progress a lot on social media, there’s a lot I’ve kept secret, so you’ll have to come along and see it for yourself!

I’m so grateful to have the support of incredible local people and businesses who are supporting my exhibition. Crafters Union Wines, Organic Mechanic Kombucha, MilkCrate savoury catering, Half Baked Catering Co. sweet catering, Big Pic printing, Heavy Chest live music, Jasper Rain photography, Ali Jansen videography.

Any hometown food tips for a hungry visitor?

MilkCrate café on Ghuznee Street is delicious, co-owned by this amazing woman called Brigid. Also Half Baked Catering Co. by sisters Zara and Shinée who make healthy/raw treats. There are so many talented women here in Wellington.

The fortyonehundred solo exhibition is free to enter and will take place 15-27 February at Potocki Paterson Art Gallery in Wellington.

words by niall roeder

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