Friday, 27 March 2009

Artist of the Week - Annie Mcmanus

Annie Mcmanus works from her garden studio just outside Lewes in East Sussex. Her work is an eclectic mix of pastels, oils, drawings and cartoons. Annie says that 'Using different means of making marks, mixing mediums and allowing conscious choices to be tempered by judiciously manipulated accidents helps, when it is successful, to keep the work alive and energetic'.

One favourite living artist

There could be any number but I’m going to settle on Craigie Aitchison for the luminescence and sense of significance that he gives to the ordinary object (or figure, or dog). Of course he paints crucifixes but he somehow takes the specific out and makes them stand for all objects with a ritual meaning. The other thing is colour which is rich and deep. He can use fuchsia or cobalt and make it look subtle and celestial rather than blinding.

One favourite historical artist

Rembrandt for his mastery of line, his loose and dramatic but absolutely accurate brushwork, his humanity and his relentless scrutiny of himself. I know Prunella Clough is hardly historical but she IS dead and I can’t leave her out. She is also interested in the object in a landscape, in a different way from Craigie Aitchison. She looks at the man-made against the natural and she is very thoughtful. I also admire the way she mingles figurative and abstract and the way she constantly surprises with areas of her painting that are almost awkward.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?

I’ve always drawn a lot but because I was perceived to be academic I went to University to do English and, though I did a good deal of illustrating work, I didn’t think of making a commitment to art until I was older. Living in America for two years, where I didn’t have a Green Card which would have let me work, meant that I had time to paint, and discovered for the first time what it was to work in colour. So when I got back to England I started on the business of getting an art education, in the course of which I realised that painting was the way I wanted to spend my life.

What place in the world has inspired you?

I can’t say that I ever really work much from life or from the landscape. I never find beautiful places inspiring, they are lovely to look at for sure but they seem somehow complete. I prefer ugly or disordered places but even so I will only collect impressions rather than use a view wholesale. I do think I might be missing a trick here but I always think that if I start painting just what I see I’m going to get lost in trying to make an accurate rendition and everything else will get abandoned along the way.

Do you work best on your own or in collaboration?

On my own

At age 15 who influenced your style?
Because I was drawing a lot and reading a lot it was masters of drawing and of illustration that I loved. Cartoonists like Giles, illustrators like Ronald Searle, the drawings in The Moomin books and in The Phantom Tollbooth. Not very elevated perhaps but I still love that work.

How much do you bend your 'vision' to suit the marketplace - if at all?

I think my ‘vision’ is very fluid anyway. Images that are provoked by an idea, or a word or something around me arise in my head and expect to be got down on paper or canvas. Of course they change in the execution but the final work will be faithful in a general way to the first image. The one area where I feel that I would certainly be influenced by the market place is over the question of size. Big paintings take longer and cost more and people don’t have much spare money at the moment. Without particularly having made a decision about it I realise that, generally speaking, I have been using smaller canvases. Having said that, I have to admit that I am just working on the biggest canvas I have ever used, so no sense or order there then.

Who would you say buys your work?

Depends on the piece of work, very difficult question.

How do you set about starting a new project?

Lots of thinking, not only about the image itself but about medium, support. Then I have to tidy my studio so it can develop a chaos particular to that project or piece of work. Dabble with colour, draw, mess the work up a bit, refine, draw on it, add, take a lot away, decide it’s finished, go away, come back and start making major changes etc etc

Where and what is your studio?

I’m very lucky with my studio, it’s a large, light converted barn in the garden where I can make as much mess as I need to. On the other hand it’s difficult to warm up in the winter.

Do you have a good work/life balance?

Apart from not enough time for either, yes.

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work?


Would you rather be doing something else?


Are there other fields that you'd like to apply some facet of your work into?

I do other things that involve design or drawing, planning gardens, designing cards, drawing cartoons. I’d like to do more illustration work alongside the painting, the combination of word and picture in illustration is always stimulating.

If you could exhibit in any gallery which would it be?

The Whitechapel

Most overrated artist/maker?

Without mentioning any particular names.... the kind of art that is ideas based is fine if the ideas are original and exciting, but too often there seems to be feeling that any idea, however banal, is as good as any other. It’s hard to keep a sense of discernment since art went conceptual, either for the maker or for the observer so discernment sometimes feels like the first thing to go.

Where do the majority of your inspiration / ideas come from?

All sorts of things, a dream, the space between two things on a hill, someone leaning on a gate, a passing image on the TV....

Where did you train? Favourite / least favourite aspects of training?

Brighton then Wimbledon for an MA in Drawing. I loved my Foundation Course because of the sense of freedom and the constantly changing programme, doing things I would never normally try, like metal work. There were aspects of the MA that I found difficult to stomach, a degree of self satisfaction among some of the staff that led to imaginative failure and sometimes a lack of sensitivity to the needs of the students.

Exhibitions you have had in the past 12 months

National Open Exhibition

Cork Street Open

Art and Soul at Falmer

Teddington Art Fair

The Untitled Art Fair in Chelsea

Future Exhibitions

Own Open Studio, June

Art and Soul 2009 at Falmer, May

The Regency Town House, May, Hove

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