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Hazel Mountford


    I am a fine art acrylic painter based in Bristol. Living and working in an urban environment has shaped and influenced my practice. My main focus is the ongoing competition for space between an ever-expanding human population and their animal neighbours, an evolving intricate jigsaw. I’m fascinated by the meeting point between these two worlds, examining the cross connections.

    My paintings are highly detailed, presented on simple or minimal backgrounds and strive to capture a sense of quiet beauty, allowing the viewer time to pause and reconnect with nature. I work on wood panels, created by myself and my father. The panel shapes themselves are influenced by the shapes, architecture and negative spaces of the man-made landscape and are used to create a stage my creatures can interact with.

    My work has been featured in Art of England, Artists and Illustrators and the BBC Wildlife Magazine. I have exhibited in London, Glasgow, Dublin, New York, Toronto, Singapore and Hong Kong. In 2009 I won the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year- British Mammals and in 2016 was shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year.


    Artist Statement

    My artwork takes inspiration from current issues concerning the natural world with the main area of interest being the competition for space between humans and animals and between species themselves. This shifting relationship creates a constantly evolving intricate jigsaw that I find fascinating.

    I paint on wood panels, using the shapes themselves to convey meaning: creating a space with which my animals can interact. Although the creatures are depicted in realistic poses there is an element of anthropomorphism as they are conscious, knowing, aware of the concepts I am discussing. I create a stage from which my animals peer out and fix the viewer with an intense gaze: we humans are engaged, a connection formed between worlds.

    To focus intensely on the story I place my subjects in empty space with minimal or no details so to avoid contextualising them. In this way I can play with negative space and direct the viewer’s eye inwards. Most of my pieces are painted on fields of white. The owl taken out of the woodland, placed on a white background and viewed in a home is in our living room: there is no line of separation.

    Living and working in an urban environment has shaped and influenced my practice. The ever changing nature of cities highlights the key to success is adaptability. Both in the natural and human world the less fortunate, the less adaptable are pushed to the fringes. My designs are influenced by the shapes, architecture and negative spaces of the man-made landscape.

    My realistic painting style draws from the paintings of Adriaen van Utrecht and Frans Snyder. Their avalanches of dead animals flow to sate human appetites. My creatures similarly suffer falls of a more indirect but similarly human directed fate. I am also influenced by entomological painters such as Maria Sybilla Merian, with her dramatic use of composition and colour.

    My latest project ‘Masquerade’ is a response to food chains, the removal of keystone species, the jumble of existence. Using as starting point mimicry in nature and the transformative nature of mask wearing I have created a series of darkly playful images of animals wearing the mask of their predator or prey. In these paintings I explore the question: what would happen if the animal became self-aware of this transformation, this duality of being both predator and prey? Maybe now it would like a taste of itself.

    I want to highlight the plight of wildlife but also to highlight our own problems, so much of what is going on in nature is reflected in our own world. The fight for resources, for power, overcrowding, a world consuming itself. Animals have been used as metaphors and symbols throughout western art and I am continuing this tradition.

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