A theme that has been identified amongst the paintings within Figurative Art Now is that of paintings featuring cats and dogs, which will excite the animal lovers amongst you.

Over the course of the pandemic, pets have been a real source of joy for many of us, bringing happiness and companionship to our otherwise isolated days, and these paintings can be seen as a celebration of our furry friends!

Firstly we look at paintings with dogs, and we see a woman stroking her dog in Ruth Addinall’s painting Indulgent Mistress. As well as a painter, Ruth is a sculptor, and she says her painting often reflects her attraction to the way that light creates form. About this piece specifically, Ruth explains: ‘Stylistically, this piece is quite typical of my imaginary figures. I work very slowly to build up layers and am drawn to the way light creates mass. I often paint contemplative, single female figures that are still and sculptural. Various ideas that I have been interested in over the years are at play here: the Tarot card La Force/Strength, our relationships with our 'daemons' and with the animal inside us, fidelity, indulgence, and so on.’

The La Force/Strength Tarot card is traditionally depicted using the figure of a calm and gentle woman who gently holds the jaws of a lion, which she gracefully controls. The card is representative of courage and bravery, but also compassion and love. This modern and imaginative interpretation still shares the defining features of the card, with a calm and graceful woman gently in charge of her pet.   

Ruth Addinall Indulgent Mistress Oil 120 x 64 cm £8,500

The next painting featuring a dog is Lynn Ahrens's piece Couple with Dog, painted in a far more abstract style, using large, bold, and playful brushstrokes. Lynn describes this piece as an ‘imaginary pastoral scene with two friends and their dog, visiting a local beauty spot.’ Whilst the figure on the left, with the white dog in front of them, is easily identifiable, the faceless figure on the right, holding what could be another animal in their arms, is far more abstracted and open to the viewer’s interpretation. Lynn describes her work more broadly, explaining: ‘my work is concerned with the human figure, fragile and simple in its own being, determined through a variety of dispositions conveyed imaginatively.’ Her imaginative style allows the viewer to read into the painting uniquely, creating their own stories surrounding the scenes she depicts.

Lynn Ahrens Couple with Dog Oil 100 x 90 cm £2,000

Next, we look at Carol Bwye’s painting Sitting Woman and Dog. Carol is a figurative painter whose recent paintings have largely been about women's experiences, exploring women’s relationships with others and their surroundings. This piece is one of a recent series of paintings of women. Carol explains: ‘The composition and relationships within the painting are essential to its balance, feel and narrative. Oil allows me to achieve a richer and more intense colour and surface than other mediums.’

The bright blue, orange, and yellow colours, yet used in slightly subdued tones, create a sense of serenity, whilst the woman has a pleasant smile on her face, echoed on the happy expression of the dog. Dogs have brought a lot of joy during the pandemic and provided some of us with reasons for us to get up, leave the house and go for long walks!

Carol Bwye Sitting Woman and Dog Oil 76 x 51 cm 2,500

Next is Melissa Scott-Miller’s beautifully detailed painting Back Gardens in Islington with Secluded Artist, which is typical of her recognisable intricate style as she details aspects down to every brick on every wall, and every leaf on every plant. Behind the artist perched on the wall in the foreground, we see a dog wandering the garden path. Whilst the artist is secluded, she still finds companionship in the animals and nature surrounding her. Melissa says: ‘I painted this around January and February 2020, people were starting to self isolate, I was either working from my window or on the shared roof terrace’.

Melissa Scott-Miller RP NEAC RBA Back Gardens in Islington with Secluded Artist Oil 120 x 100 cm £6,000


The last painting I am highlighting featuring a dog is Irene Marot’s painting The First Light Irene explains: ‘I've just completed a series of works of a group, of mostly elderly, swimmers who challenge themselves, joyously and courageously, daily at dawn by swimming, in the sea, through the seasons.’ Irene herself is one of these brave cold sea swimmers who even swim throughout the winter! She didn’t mention whether the dog also joins them swimming or is just an onlooker.

Irene Marot The First Light Oil 56 x 70 cm £1,200


There are also two paintings featuring cats that I wish to highlight, another example of a pet that has kept many of us company bringing companionship during a difficult period of isolation. A cat’s purr, signifying their contentment, has also been proven to have calming psychological effects on humans.

Stacey Gledhill Two Black Cats Oil 105 x 80 cm £3,000

Stacey Gledhill’s painting Two Black Cats shows a female figure with one black cat in her hand, whilst another black cat curls graciously around her legs in the foreground, signifying their sleek and elegant movements through playful yet relatively simplistic shapes and forms. Stacey describes her work as follows: ‘Patterns of light, feelings of stillness, space and intimacy are key inspirations for me. I paint from personal experience and moments in my life, creating forms and colours from memory, observation, and perception.  My aim is always for simplicity - to edit the unnecessary detail and capture the essence of what has moved me. This work is an exploration of imagined forms and colours within the figurative tradition. I'm interested in simplifying shapes, and the balance struck between modelled and flatforms to construct a perceptual reality, rather than a strictly representational one.’

The final painting is Komachi Goto’s piece Cat and Girl depicting a girl holding a cat in an embrace as she strokes their face, capturing a still frame yet still maintaining a sense of movement and energy. Cats can be quite unpredictable, enjoying being stroked one minute, changing their mind the next, and here it is quite difficult to tell whether the cat is enjoying themself. Komachi’s backstory behind the painting explains this further: ‘The subjects are my daughter and her cat Snowy who have a love and hate relationship. I found them both silently expressionist. I wanted to capture the moments when they glare at each other just before the next action. I used many photo references, but I avoided going into detail with small brushes to keep the freshness. I wanted to create an abstract space by layering flat shapes on top of each other using limited colours.’ Komachi often paints what catches her attention, telling a story through her work as she is inspired by the history of and relationships between the subjects she depicts.

Komachi Goto Cat & Girl Oil 18 x 12 cm £500


We hope you enjoyed exploring the cats and dogs depicted within the Figurative Art Now online exhibition and greatly encourage you to delve into the entire exhibition, which can be viewed on our website now! Let us know what other animals you can spot amongst the collection.

Article written by Hannah Martin

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