“My studio space is integral to how I work, and I still pinch myself that I get to walk to work every day,” says Laxmi Hussain, speaking from the studio she occasionally shares with her youngest son, one-year-old Eden (she also has an 11-year-old son Zain, and a daughter, Layra, eight). It’s just a 20-minute walk from her home, situated within a modern complex just below Wembley Stadium. When we speak, light is pouring through the floor to ceiling windows that stretch to almost four metres.
Inside, Laxmi has areas dedicated to different aspects of her practice, and there are carefully chosen brushes for creating her evocative figurative paintings and drawings with fluid, elegant lines. Her works honour female bodies and celebrate self-love and the power of healing in creativity. More recent experiments include tufted wall hangings, and a newly discovered passion: upcycling old lamps she finds at charity shops and painting them by hand in her signature bright, matte, ultramarine. It’s a colour that resonates for Laxmi, being a colour she associates with her late mother who fell ill with cancer in 2017, around the same time Laxmi began working with the hue. “It wasn’t until close to or just after my mother’s death that I realised in so many memories and photos she is wearing blue. I think that is why I continue to be obsessed with it today.”
Laxmi’s path to becoming an artist has been unconventional and unexpected, and in the last year she has enjoyed an explosive interest in her work. Initially trained in architecture, graduating from London Metropolitan University in 2006, she decided to move fields after struggling to find a job. “It was very sexist – all my female classmates had a similar experience, whereas the men seemed to get jobs straight away,” she explains. “It was really off-putting, so I got a job at a female-run estate agency that was just starting out.”
After several years working at the agency, Laxmi left to take up a job at Mr & Mrs Smith. She ended up working as the brand’s global picture editor, curating imagery of hotels and destinations. “It sparked my interest in wanting to do something more creative,” she says. She started drawing again, designing Christmas cards for charity that proved extremely popular. From there she began to create more figurative drawings and paintings in her signature blue, sharing them on Instagram. In 2017, the beauty editor of US Vogue picked up on Laxmi’s work and invited her to take part in an exhibition in L.A. Laxmi then began working on commissions and designs for commercial clients, but in the last year, painting has become the focus of her practice, allowing her to move into her own space.
“We still think of the arts as a vocation and so having a dedicated space to work means I set those intentions before I make my way there and when I leave, I'm able to shut off, close the door and step back,” she says. “When I worked from home, it was somewhat chaotic – there were no set work hours, there wasn't a dedicated space to work, and it was hard to spend so much time setting up and packing away all the time. My studio allows me to leave things untouched, step away, display if I need to – it gives me the time to think and process.”
Currently Laxmi is painting furniture found on eBay. “I’ve been enjoying doing new things – I think every artist needs those phases of retraining, learning new skills,” she says. Her days don't always go as planned, especially with a toddler in tow. “Sometimes I compare my productivity to other artists, but then I think, oh yeah, I have a little person running around .” At this point in her work and life, Laxmi is embracing the chaos and changes – something that’s reflected deeply in her art. And she confesses that if it weren’t for motherhood, she doesn’t think she’d be an artist at all. “Yes, there are times when I want to work on things, and little hands do what little hands do, but motherhood has taught me that the fear of doing what you love is nothing compared to the fears you have of being a mother and nurturing your children. It’s taught me to just go for it.”
Interview by Charlotte Jansen.
Photographs by Liz Seabrook.
Laxmi wears our Beaded Collar Poplin Shirt.