It’s International Women’s Day on the 8th of March and we’re paying tribute to the amazing women that have inspired us. Which female artists have inspired you, both past and present?
There are so many. I’m drawn to female art, it’s a beautiful energy and I relate to it before I’m even aware that a work is rendered by a woman. Finding Alice Neal was a special moment, her work is so important. Looking at art can feel like time travel. A painting rendered with the zeitgeist of its time will draw me back and Alice Neal’s does that - it gives me a spark of the atmosphere it was created in. I love Laura Owens, Aya Takano, Cecily Brown and Genieve Figgis. I like work that’s multi-layered, transportive and humorous, work that sucks everything in and blasts it out.
Women feature strongly in your work. Why is it important to you to represent them? And is there a way you want your women to be seen?
Painting women feels a familiar and comfortable place for me. Women’s bodies are so commented on and sexualised. I find the reality more clumsily sweet and strong, not often how I see women portrayed. I feel it’s important to paint the female form through my own eye -. I’m pushing back at the hundreds of years of the male gaze. When I paint men, it will be on a day when I feel particularly boyish and they just come out usually looking vulnerable.
You start your portraits with their eyes. What can someone’s eyes give away about their character or their story?
So much is expressed through our eyes - and hands too. Once I have the eyes, a subject becomes real to me and with that a responsibility to bring a painting to life, to give them a place to be. The hands give away secrets. In photographs, the positioning of hands really reflect emotion, maybe because hands are forgotten about, we’re too busy thinking of our facial expression and holding our stomachs in.
Your paintings are often in domestic settings, is ‘the home’ a special place for you? And has this relationship changed over the past 12 months?
The home is a special place, although it’s probably a place for most of us that is also the most problematic. It’s possible to feel disconnected and lonely within a family, partly because of the expectations of what we believe a family “should be”. In some of my work I look at the gap between the reality and fantasy of family life, although the bodies are intertwined, the eyes send a contradictory message.