In our first Q&A, we spoke to Birmingham-based Artist Angela Maloney about her style, the inspiration behind her paintings and her recent solo exhibition at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery.
Big question, but what inspired you to become an Artist?
I have always loved to paint and draw and have memories of being creative from a very young age. I was extremely lucky to be encouraged by a Junior school teacher, Mr Owen, who encouraged me hugely, setting me extra tasks to develop my skills and introducing me to charcoal pencils when I was about 10. He must have seen some potential which he kindly and generously nurtured. I am also very grateful to a careers officer that I had a chance encounter with when still at school. He made me aware of the opportunity of going to Art College, in fact he helped map out the next few years of my life, for which I am eternally grateful.
Visitors were intrigued by the subject matter of your paintings. Can you explain the key themes or messages behind the work you exhibited with us?
For me the content of the work is important. The images I make operate in a metaphorical and pictorial way expressing my observations, experiences and concerns about the world around me. The apiarist paintings came about after spotting a group of people in white suits at a distance & through the undergrowth in my local park. I was at first taken aback, thinking that something sinister had happened and that they were wearing decontamination suits! It was only after a few moments that I realised they were beekeepers and that is where the idea began. It was the initial ambiguity & the dichotomy with the nurturing role of the beekeepers that intrigued me; the way we perceive thing on first impressions. Likewise, the ‘temporary shelter’ imagery came about through finding a covered den that someone had made and, on first approaching it, I was anxious that I might disturb someone inhabiting it. This series began in about 2015 when mass migration and displacement of people was at its height. Homelessness globally was escalating out of control. The dens, shelters, tents and tree-houses became, not about playful structures perhaps connected to childhood, but rather about alternative dwellings and places of sanctuary no matter how humble. The garden series reflects my own personal sanctuary- my garden. The imagery is a mixture of the real and the imaginary. Of the tamed and unkempt. Of representation and abstraction. I am inspired by the natural world, our connection to it and our human intervention within it.
Visitors loved your use of colour, could you tell us a bit about your artistic approach to making new work (process/style/medium/specific techniques)?
I often use photography to help inform my work, although this is something which I am currently trying to move away from. The photograph, either from my own archives or found material, is then manipulated through various processes and re-appropriated to become an intrinsic part of the image. I tend to work a lot in acrylic at the moment in thin grounds, washes and glazes, building up the surface over time. Once the photograph has been utilised and embedded within the work the process then takes over, aiming to balance controlled areas with more accidental ones, the detailed and representational with more abstract qualities, the real with the imaginary. More often than not I will begin a painting by working in a reductive way, wiping away coloured grounds to ‘draw in’ the image. I like to work in quite a restricted palette that is sometimes unnatural, exaggerated or heightened. Previous inspiration for my use of colour has come from such things as hand coloured Victorian photography, vintage photography from the 1950’s / 60’s or things like the Ashes to Ashes video (David Bowie) by David Mallet. This was a video from my youth that etched itself into my memory, a brilliant technological feet before the days of digital enhancement.
There was a comment from one of our visitors that said “beautiful interpretations of nature/trees; captured the light beautifully.” Do you paint directly from real life, photographs or imagination?
I rarely paint direct from life, so I would say that photography, imagination but also experiences are utilised within my work. I walk my dog a lot through local woods and parks and am always observing nature, trees, the effects of light and so on. Photography cannot always capture what the human eye can see or the sensations we experience. My use of photography is never intended to simply reproduce a photographic image in paint or other mediums. It is used merely as a part of the process of image making; part of a blending of many things.
A lot of our visitors commented on the one sculptural piece that was featured in your exhibition. What was the importance of including this in your show? And do you make sculpture often?
I don’t usually work in 3 dimensions. This maquette was made to make drawings and paintings from originally, but was included in the show due to its relevance to several painting, drawings and prints. Many artists work from dioramas and I was influenced by the painter Daniel Pitin, who often uses dioramas to work from in his studio.
Why did you choose to exhibit at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery? What did you gain from the experience?
Unfortunately, in the West Midlands free public exhibition spaces for solo shows are quite rare for artists. Especially if you do not have a high profile or happen to work in, what is often regarded as, a more traditional medium- paint. Therefore, I relished the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery. This gallery provides much needed opportunities for local contemporary artists and makers and is forward thinking in its approach for open call-outs, giving it a diverse and rich exhibition program. Its team were highly professional from the outset and the communication and overall input from the Exhibition Officer, Lucy Morrison, made the process run smoothly and proficiently. I highly recommend artists to apply to exhibit here.
Since your exhibition, what are you working on now?
Before the current lockdown (Covid-19) I had been working on a new series of bird paintings, inspired by the once popular Victorian taxidermy birds in glass jars & cabinets. Sadly, I have had to put these on hold for now as I cannot get to the studio, so I have been working on some small compositional studies for another body of work I will call ‘The Seed Sharers ‘. The initial idea came about after hearing a while ago about a young man who sent seeds he had collected from his vegetable garden to people all over the world, so that they might grow their own vegetables. They in turn would then give their seeds out. This simple yet generous act eventually provided food for many people. This concept has become much more poignant for me over these last few weeks. The generosity and selflessness we have all witnessed, in these unprecedented times, has been truly humbling. For me, it is this humanity, this re-established faith in humankind, the carers and the sharers that will, no doubt, influence more new work.
Discover more of Angela’s work here: https://www.angelamaloney.co.uk/