36/ Conversations With Friends - Cecilia Reeve and Serena Fokschaner
For this Conversations With Friends feature we get to be a fly on the wall as PE artist Cecilia Reeve, and her mother, design and interiors journalist, Serena Fokschaner, exchange questions about their personal and professional backgrounds, and share their earliest memories about their greatest passions, art and reading.
We hope you enjoy this honest peek into the life and relationship of the mother-daughter duo, as we share pictures from their cherished family photo albums, and look into Cecilia’s latest collection, 'Sunbeams and Reflections'.
Cecilia - Growing up our Jewish heritage was always a very important part of our childhood. How important is your Jewish heritage to you?
Serena - I’m not religious but when you’re part of a tribe certain traits run deep. When your great-grandparents were forced to flee their home in north-eastern Romania in the Second World War they became refugees. Like many displaced people, education became their currency. I grew up surrounded by teetering piles of books and to believe that education was the ticket to a better life. I’m no intellectual snob but in my book you can’t have enough of it. It’s a gift. As one Jewish friend put it; ‘never trust someone whose TV is bigger than their bookshelf.’ I hope that belief will be part of my legacy to you!
Cecilia's grandfather with a fellow student from SOAS where he read Mandarin and Cantonese.
Czernowitz, once part of Romania, where Cecilia's grandfather's family came from.
Cecilia- What made you decide to become a writer?
Serena - I’ve always read. I can see myself as a child under the silver-birch tree in the garden, book in one hand, biscuit in the other. But for years I wanted to be an artist. Luckily I realised that I would never be a good one. It coincided with the time I began reading about art and design. I remember opening a book about Le Corbusier and uncovering the socialist ideals behind his coolly-Modernist architecture. It was a turning point. It brought home the power of words to express complicated ideas; and paved the way for a career in design journalism...
At University I edited an indy magazine – lots of earnest articles about Russian Constructivism or politics in Argentina mixed with less earnest ones about pop culture - and I’ve been immersed in words ever since. In an increasingly tech-driven world, I find it rather wonderful that all you need is a piece of paper and pen to conjure a new world. Perhaps that’s how you feel when you sit down at your studio desk.
Softer Than Rain by Cecilia Reeve, shot by Alicia Waite, Styled by Eleanor of A Considered Space in the Pieces London Library.
Cecilia - Where do you feel happiest?
Serena - When we’re all squashed around the kitchen table, candles flickering, laughing, debating – the conversational decibel rate rising as the wine glasses empty. Ideally Sam, your boyfriend, will have cooked us one of his delicious, colourful suppers. Not being able to see family properly for so long has really reinforced the importance of ‘real’ human contact hasn’t it. The warm noisiness of it all. Zoom, with its jerky and transactional exchanges, just doesn’t cut it…
Dinner table with a mixture of artworks by Kate Malone, Cecilia Reeve, and family members; ceramic bowl by Cecilia's aunt.
Cecilia - Do you feel that you are able to use your writing to help other people?
Serena - In a modest way, yes. As a creative in a shouty world, it can be hard to get noticed – you might agree with that. I feel it’s my role to seek out people who are doing good work but don’t have the time, the resources or the confidence to get press coverage. There are so many wonderful people out there who deserve to be known. Last year I wrote about the social enterprises who are using craft and design to transform lives. The Hoxton Gardenware Scheme for instance, is a not-for-profit social enterprise scheme for young Hackney dwellers who want to learn to throw a clay pot. At a time of biting cutbacks, it’s such a great idea.
The Hoxton Gardenware Scheme.
Cecilia - You introduced me to a lot of music when I was younger; much of it has shaped my musical tastes. How has music influenced your life and what was your first gig?
Serena - Hugely… I’m typing this while listening to music. Music filled my childhood. My grandfather, playing his light-fingered tangoes on the piano. Everything from Bach to the Bee Gees wafting from speakers. I was a devotee of the late, cult Radio I DJ John Peel: the more niche the track the better! My first gig was The Ramones in Camden. It feels cool writing that now but the reality was far from cool. I was in the back row with my mates, feeling hot in a vintage coat. It was sweary and scary with missiles flying overhead. I was 15: I’d never let you have gone to an event like that when you were that age!
Serena - When I was going through our photos I found so many of you drawing and painting. Was there a moment when you realised that you wanted to be an artist?
Cecilia - I can't really pinpoint an exact time when I realised that I wanted to be an artist. I think it was always in the back of my head as I have always loved drawing and making things. I always loved making up stories and illustrating them, usually with fairies or princesses. Even going to Sunday school at church when we were small was a fun activity as it meant I could colour things in and shower glitter everywhere.
Cece and her sister drawing.
Serena - We have lots of art, much of it by your family, at home – do you think that’s influenced you?
Cecilia - I think that being surrounded by family art - ceramics by my aunt, art by my great grandmother - was very influential on me. It made me realise that you can have a viable career as artist. Knowing that other family members have followed a similar career path to me is part of my identity. That’s what gave me the confidence to become an artist.
A linocut by Cecilia’s great-grandmother, Agnes Reeve, who studied at The Slade.
Swimming With Clouds by Cecilia Reeve, shot by Alicia Waite, styled by Eleanor of A Considered Space, in the home of Pieces London.
Serena - You’ve always read a great deal; I wondered how books and stories have fed into your work?
Cecilia - My love of reading definitely inspired me to do an illustration BA. I am so drawn to words and storytelling. I have always enjoyed reading as it allows one to step into another world, even if only for a few hours. I think that this idea of escapism has really informed my work. I always want my paintings and animations to have a cut loose narrative behind them; to offer a window into an alternate world. I also really love listening to audiobooks when I am working. I feel so lucky to have a job that allows me to listen to stories while I work.
Sunset Over Lake by Cecilia Reeve.
Spring 2020 Prints by Cecilia Reeve.
Serena - Has any particular artist or movement inspired you?
Cecilia - I'm not sure if it counts as a movement but learning more about women artists in the 20th century has really inspired me. It’s changed my outlook on art completely. Doing art history at school was so interesting but after learning about countless tortured male artists a lot of whom were very misogynistic (ahem... Picasso...) it was so refreshing to start discovering women artists such as Charlotte Salomon, Louise Bourgeois, Paula Moderson Becker. It sharpened my focus. I realised who I wanted my audience to be and who I wanted my art to be for.
I Will Never Let You Go by Cecilia Reeve.
Serena - We also dragged you around galleries and museums as a child; do you think some of those visits lodged in your memory?
Cecilia - I remember being hauled around a lot of churches which, as a child, I did find really boring (but now I do ultimately appreciate)! There are a couple of moments that really stand out. One was seeing the Turner watercolours with you at the Tate Britain. I was awestruck by the way he was able to capture a boat on the water in a few brushstrokes. The other was an exhibition of David Hockney. We sat in front of the painting of ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ and you told me about how they had separated after this painting was finished. You explained how you could see the tension in their relationship through the distance between them and their body language. I think this really struck a chord within me; it got me thinking about how art has the potential to unearth and communicate complex relationships.
Cecilia (right), with her sisters Emma and Lucy, and Serena.