In the Studio

In the Studio Artists Feature on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year

Suzon Lagarde from Mall Galleries In the Studio on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Award

Suzon Lagarde and Yevhen Nahirnyy feature on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, painting the British actor Geraldine James OBE. Suzon tells us about the experience. 


'I had a brilliant time participating in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year; it was an incredible experience! A friend encouraged me to apply, so I happily gave it a go, but it was a real surprise when they invited me to be part of the show. I would never have expected to get that, so my friend's encouragement meant a lot. One of my tutors at the time, James Bland NEAC, was particularly supportive.'

'I was nervous on the morning of the filming, but everything was so well-organized and everyone so friendly that I couldn't help but feel enthusiastic from the first moment. The conditions for painting the portrait are very different from the usual classroom set up, which made the challenge even more exciting. I had no choice but to take a playful and intuitive approach. The day was very moving for me, because it brought to the forefront how much I love painting and how much joy it brings me, even under stressful circumstances.'

'For my episode of the programme, I was painting alongside two talented artists who are my age, and also now my friends; Kelly Frank (who just exhibited with the Society of Women Artists), and Yevhen Nahirnyy who's part of Mall Galleries In The Studio project with me. Also painting were Geoff Harisson (recently showing in ING Discerning Eye) and Dorian Radu (who exhibits with the ROI); we're hoping to meet up to sketch together soon.'

'My sitter was the wonderful Geraldine James. I was struck by her beauty and incredible stillness. The way she sat for us had something profoundly generous, and even though she and I didn't know each other, a special connection forged between us while I was painting. I felt so happy when Geraldine chose my portrait to take home with her.'

'I also met an even younger artist; the talented Nua, who is six-years-old. Nua made me feel very emotional when she offered me a beautiful drawing she had done of me while I was painting. Her mother and I keep in touch, and I was very happy to be able to make a drawing for her in return.'

'This experience was as amazing as it was unexpected. It brought me a lot of joy, and I met many wonderful people. I would definitely encourage anyone who feels like they would enjoy such experience to give it a go. There's nothing too loose, and many beautiful things to get out of it! Applications for Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year are open until 22 February.'

Find out more about Suzon and her practice



Image credit

Photo by Suzon Lagarde

In the Studio visits Ben Johnson

Artists from our In the Studio project visited the studio of Ben Johnson and his assistant Georgia Kitty Harris, to discuss the value of intergenerational creative relationships. See their visit for yourself.


 

Find out more about In the Studio and how to support the project


In the Studio visits Tim Benson PROI NEAC

Artists from our In the Studio project visited Tim Benson, member of the New English Art Club and President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Here's how they found the experience.


'Visiting Tim Benson’s studio on Tuesday was a thoroughly enjoyable experience' says In the Studio artist, Erin Lee. 'His words about the importance of education and opening up the art world to people from different demographics, including young people, women, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, resonated strongly with me.

'It was inspiring to see the President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters striving towards an inclusive art world by changing perceptions of galleries and arti societies. Tim spoke of the artist’s role as an ambassador to speak about broader issues and highlighted the importance of showcasing different stories. Tim’s aims for his presidency are inspirational and valuable for the contemporary art world.'

'Tim has been incredibly generous, welcoming us into his studio for two inspiring hours' says Suzon Lagarde. 'He mentioned the importance for him of having a separate space to paint: a studio to work in with no distractions. Most of us taking part in In the Studio still work from our bedrooms, so we discussed the logistics of that and how a lack of decarmation between different areas of our lives was a difficulty in itself.

It was valuable to share the solutions we'd each found to overcome this, like pinning work to the walls and placing work face down to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and setting timers as motivation to start painting. Meeting peers who are in a similar situation and stage of their development is so useful!'

'Tim encouraged us to enter competitions, but also reminded us that rejection is inevitable and not to take it personally, but to channel that frustration into the artwork. He showed us brilliant self portraits produced using this technique!

As President of the ROI, Tim explained how important it was for the society to be accessible to all artists, so that when they select work for their Annual Exhibitions, those choices reflect the quality of the works and nothing else. One example of this diversification is in welcoming unframed submissions, enabling artists who can't afford framing to enter their work.'

We were fortunate enough to have Paulina's delightful daughter Erin with us for the visit!

'Once again, I felt very lucky to attend this visit through the In The Studio project. When we're talking about all the different elements that come together to give an artist confidence in their practice, what Mall Galleries are creating here is undoubtedly precious. As a young artist, to be recognised and to have the opportunity to meet inspiring professionals like Tim is so valuable.'

Photography by Paulina Kwietniewksa.

Find out more about In the Studio and how to support the project


Image credit

Sketch by Suzon Lagarde. Photography by Paulina Kwietniewska

Patrons, Friends, and Artists Come Together to Support In the Studio

Each year, Mall Galleries' hosts a Friends Christmas Party, bringing together regular visitors and artists to celebrate the festive season with art, music, and refreshments. In 2018 we were thrilled to welcome everyone from patrons and friends to the young artists participating in our In the Studio project. Throughout the evening, we fundraised for In the Studio by holding a raffle, with original works of art featuring among the prizes. It was a fantastic gathering, not only of visitors who've known and loved Mall Galleries for years, but also of the newest additions to the FBA community. 

In the Studio artist, Suzon Lagarde, created this sketch of the evening:

Clockwise from top left: In the Studio artist Celeste Chau da Luz; Mall Galleries' Director Lewis McNaught with Elizabeth Smith PPRSMA; our valued patrons and friends.

Find out more about In the Studio and how to support the project



Image credit

Sketch by Suzon Lagarde

Behind the Scenes at the ROI Hang

This week our In the Studio artists ventured behind the scenes at the hang of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018. Find out what the young artists, and the ROI President and Vice President made of the visit.


'It was a great privilege to witness the behind the scenes of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 and then to attend the private view the following day', says Suzon Lagarde. 'I was particularly impressed by the amount of work done is such a short period of time. This helped me to better understand the need for size and framing regulations during the submission process. There's already enough diversity and potential difficulties surrounding everything that is to hang on the day. it simply wouldn't be practical to allow things like non-standard frames.'

'I was surprised to hear that most of the curation happens on the day. If I understand correctly, Tim Benson PROI NEAC had some guidelines (one space for the thematic work, one for the young artists, mixing member and non-member) but the rest of the decisions were made on the day. I would have thought a first draft would happen before, playing digitally with thumbnails of the artworks, or even with printed versions. This only reinforces how impressed I was that all that work could be done in such a short amount of time.' 

'My personal experience is of organising as much as possible beforehand, partly because we had to hang the work ourselves (which took a fair amount of time!). Previously I've created virtual models of a gallery and imported small jpegs of everyone's work so we were able to play with different layouts. On the day, we tweaked a few things because sometimes it feels better with such spontaneity, but it was very useful to have a base to start from. I was thinking, as the gallery space is the same from years to years, it could be a service offered in the future, to let societies use a virtual model of the space to play before hand with curation?'

'I really enjoyed the way everything was hung', continued Suzon; 'that pieces from one artist were often spaced out, but not too much, so you could still recognise similarities and come back to it. The theme around community was a brilliant idea, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the idea continues in future. Overall I'm really grateful for Tim and Adebanji's words, and felt really inspired by the visit.'


'I really enjoyed the atmosphere behind the scenes and how informal it was' says In the Studio artist Maddie Exton, 'just observing alone was really informative and interesting.' 'I'm in the process of setting up an interim show at Uni, so it was useful to see how professionals sort things out. I think we all felt really privileged to witness the hang and I'd love to attend more of that kind of event where we just learn through observation, which is invaluable. It was interesting to hear Tim talk about the divide between the traditional and contemporary art worlds, and to learn how much of the packing materials would be swept up and thrown away. The cardboard laid out on the floor and the big rolls of bubble wrap and film all seemed almost sculptural to me.'

'I wondered what kind of reaction there would be if the show was opened to the public at the stage we saw it - if the "hang" was actually just propping paintings up against the wall or lying them on the floor. I was also interested by the distinction between artist and technician - Mall Galleries Marketing Manager Liberty Rowley mentioned how some of the technicians had exhibited with her in the London Arts Board, and I think there's always a tension when artists are technicians/invigilators. It's interesting that an artist's day job can be hanging work and running errands for other artists.'


'Behind the scenes at the ROI exhibition reminded me of my degree show, but without the arguments over space' says participant Jyotsna Shelley. 'The mid-hang allowed us to see how people worked collectively in order to curate such a large exhibition. I would have preferred to see all the works unframed, as I believe that the frame is a distraction from the medium and texture of the paintings. It was incredibly enlightening and insightful to hear the Vice President and President of the ROI talk about how they first started as artists and what their real drive is. The discussion made me take an alternative approach to my practice. I’ve always had a habit of overthinking, without actually producing work. This then becomes a cycle. Tim Benson PROI NEAC and Adebanji Alade VPROI inspired me to make mistakes, discover opportunities, and take them by the horn. I was struck the sheer passion and motivation they had to draw and make work, and that it's never too late to do so.' 

'It would be greatly useful to have more discussions about the inclusivity and accessibility of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Overall, I greatly appreciated the visit and the opportunity to get a glimpse into the set-up of an exhibition.'


'It was a great experience to have members of the In the Studio project present at the hanging of our Annual Exhibition' says ROI President Tim Benson PROI NEAC. It was an opportunity for them to see how a major exhibition is hung, and also to hear the thoughts of ROI members. Further to this, it was really important for us to engage with them, as encouraging young artists like these is vital to the future of our organisation.'

Vice President Adebanji agreed: 'It was a great opportunity for us. I wish they asked more questions! It was a delight to answer the questions they asked. It really showed their enthusiasm and willingness to find out things, and get a few clarifications about the professional art world. A handful of them instantly followed me on Instagram and were raving about the inspiration they received. They were very grateful, and I think we found it important to reach out to this group too. It was a privilege for us, and I wish I'd had an opportunity like that in the early stages of my career.'

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In the Studio visits Philip James ROI

In the Studio's first event was a visit to the studio of Philip James ROI. Participant Jonathan Farningham shares this thoughts from the day, and Philip responds.


'It was a great to meet such an experienced and committed artist who has been working for years, and to get a glimpse of his life as an artist' says In the Studio participant Jonathan Farningham. 'I picked up a few tips; for example, he typically goes to sitters’ homes for portrait commissions, sometimes he works initially in pastel, so that he can later make a painting from this, otherwise he has developed a good memory and imagination for colour, which allows him to paint from drawings. I have had a studio for about a year, but it can be quite solitary, so being in another artist's studio is a reassuring experience.'


'Having spent fifty years at the easel, I agree it can sometimes be an isolated activity' says Philip James ROI, 'so it was great having a visit from a group of younger artists, and I hope they enjoyed the day. I think it's a really good idea of the Federation of British Artists to reach out to its member artists and encourage a conversation with people at the outset of their practice. We had an afternoon of interesting discussions, ranging from portraits and commissions to the ins and outs of dealing with the art world - more such art and education events please!'

Find out more about In the Studio



 

Image credit

Photography by Tedi Lena, Checka Levi Morenos and Jonathan Farningham

Day One of In the Studio

Hear from three of the artists how they found the first day of ‘In the Studio’, where all the participants came together to find out more about the project and get to know each other.


‘I had a really great day meeting the other young artists at our Introduction Day’ says Ramona Sharples. ‘I was struck by the diversity of backgrounds and current occupations in the room. I realised I had previously thought all artists followed the same route and that I was on the wrong one, but as it turns out there is no wrong route, which is comforting. By talking to people in the breaks and over a seriously delish lunch, I noticed that a lot of us had found university not as fulfilling as we’d hoped.’

‘Still, after hearing everyone’s stories of how they got to where they are now, some with degrees and others without, some educated in art and others not, what we all had in common was a perseverance and determination to continue being able to create. The need for creative willpower was also a key topic in the talk we were given from a member of the Society of Wildlife ArtistsChris Wallbank.’

‘They had recently been documenting the vast number of urban black kites living in cities in India. An unexpected feature of their project had been the incredible story of two brothers who had set up a home for the kites on their roof and as a result become leading specialists in treating wing injuries.’

‘The educational potential of art was stressed, which could be maximised if only art was taught in a more meaningful way at school, and not undervalued by society as a leisurely pursuit. It was also highlighted how few artists manage to actually live off of their practise. The more common story is of the artist who works full or part time and manages to put time aside to work in the studio or out in the field.’

‘It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking first day of the project. I was left ruminating that the most important traits of an artist are resilience, determination, and to be hard working. The other thing was the gap that needs to be filled by young minds in the decision-making driving education and the art industry, to prevent it veering in the wrong direction or stagnating. A gap the Mall Galleries is filling through this project.’

Fellow participant Suzon Lagarde says, ‘It was such a great day - so nice to get to meet everyone and have a glimpse of how exciting this project will be. It was all very inspiring, for two reasons mostly:’

‘I always find it great to see such diversity among peers, regarding everyone's practice and individual ways of considering and presenting ourselves. One could think that forming a group would polish individuality and encourage conformity, but I'm confident that such projects have the opposite effect, allowing everyone to be unique and supported.’

‘I also loved how much passion and friendliness I felt from everyone, and that's something so precious, as phrases like 'federation', 'mall galleries', and 'royal society' can be a bit daunting.  Thanks for making it all accessible!’

Mike Skeet says, ‘it's been a while since I was around so many creative minds! it was great meeting everyone.’

Events for ‘In the Studio’ will take place from November 2018 to July 2019, culminating in a Group Exhibition over the summer.

Find out more about In the Studio