INTERVIEW WITH ANTONIA SHOWERING
Bislacchi, March 2017
Antonia Showering is a painter who lives and works in London. She graduated with a BA in Fine Art from City & Guilds of London Art School in 2016 and is currently studying at The Slade. Her work is made up of a language of images and figures, that belong to a series of elapsed memories the artist faces during the process of her paintings. The overlapping of memories builds up to the outcome of the artworks. In this interview, Antonia discusses her work and career so far.
Bislacchi: You were born in London in 1991 and grew up in Somerset (South-West England) where, at the age of 10, you realised art was your favourite subject at school. How did it all start? Can you remember your first approach to art?
Antonia Showering: My family always encouraged my love of art. I recently watched some old home-videos where my older brother was filming me (aged seven) in a Blue Peter style documentary: I was explaining the ingredients to the perfect artwork! My grandfather, uncle and mother all trained as architects so there was an emphasis on drawing from an early age. My Swiss grandmother was an art historian so many of our holidays were spent sightseeing, inside Venetian churches which held incredible Titians. They thought I was going to be a nun, but it was actually the artwork inside that was keeping me so enthralled. Around the age of ten, my grandfather taught me how to draw in a more academic sense. He would celebrate my own primitive style and this is when I realised there was no wrong or right when it comes to art.
Antonia Showering, The Chess Players, 2017 Oil on canvas
Courtesy the Artist
B: After moving to London, you gained a Foundation Diploma from Chelsea Art School, an HNC from Kensington and Chelsea College and a BA in Fine Art from City & Guilds of London Art School - and now you are attending the first year of a MFA at Slade Art School. How do you think art schools have shaped your work?
AS: It has been quite a journey! I began aged eighteen and now I am twenty-five! It’s difficult to separate exactly how art school shaped my art, as much as life experiences. I’m glad to have done my foundation in London, as it was here I learnt about various galleries dotted around the city, such as: The Approach, Stuart Shave Modern Art and Cabinet Gallery. City and Guilds of London Art School was an important three years as it is during your BA that you find you own voice. It is a very sensitive time that requires hours dedicated to just being in your studio. Even if it meant going into school and destroying an almost successful painting, the action of sitting with your works, surrounded by other creatives meant my individual purpose with art became clearer. Making art is a very isolating act. Philip Guston’s famous quote ‘When you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving’ illuminates this. With constant advice at hand, some of the conversations had during tutorials still replay in my mind when I’m painting now - this guidance was invaluable. This environment allowed me to experiment and shape my own style. My Masters is going well; I feel very lucky to be at The Slade. Every day I walk up the main stairs, I think of all my heroes that made the same journey to the studio - people like Duncan Grant, Michael Andrews and Eduardo Paolozzi.
B: A video you recently posted on Instagram shows several different stages you went through for one painting. There is a landscape that is constantly affected by changes, with figures emerging and disappearing. Can you tell me more about this process in your paintings?
AS: My paintings go through so many stages because I am trying to capture how I believe our memory works. Paint helps me understand things. I know how many shifts occurred, when I look at the finished piece, but the viewer does not. They only see the final image on one plane. I feel this process mirrors how we all carry our own narratives and stories, but when you meet a person for the first time, you just see how they exist in that one moment, sitting in front of you. This is similar to the assembled plane of a finished canvas, where the surface blocks sections of the journey that led the finishing mark. My aim is that viewers want to unpick the painting, burrowing under the different surfaces where narratives are continually changing and so is the mood. As each time I return to paint, I feel different, resulting in a canvas being layered with different emotional states.
“My paintings go through so many stages because I am trying to capture how I believe our memory works. Paint helps me understand things.”
Antonia Showering in her studio, 2017 (Photography: Bislacchi)
B: Your paintings demonstrate a strong interest in depicting faces rather than the whole figures. Is there one you are more familiar with?
AS: Yes, I would probably say my younger brother.
AS: During my interview at The Slade, I remember a tutor asking me if I had repeatedly painted Picasso as a young man! When in reality it was my younger brother Keith! He has such an interesting face. I find his specific features hold all of the nationalities we are from. I seem to return to painting family members. Alberto Giacometti always painted his brother Diego. A sibling knows you better than anyone else on this planet, and loves you no matter what ugly traits you occasionally reveal!
B: When viewing your works, I was most interested in the strong connection they have with your personal origin - the multicultural world that you come from. For instance, your grandfather was from China and migrated to London in the 1950s where he met your Swiss grandmother. Since then your family have stayed in England. Does this background impact your work?
AS: I’m sure. I’ve been told the figures that inhabit my paintings look quarter-Chinese! I think this ties back to how paint can be used as a tool to make sense of things. The spaces I depict are usually an amalgamation of everywhere I am from. I often find myself painting the mountains that face the village where I’m from in Switzerland. They act as a kind of constant to me, however turbulent my personal life is, these mountains are always standing as tall and unyielding as when I left them, but the colours I use to depict them lie closer to those from The East.
B: Do different colours have different meanings for you in your paintings?
AS: Colour mirrors your mood. When I am feeling courageous, brave colour choices are forced next to one another. It excites me to see the relationship and resulting effect of these decisions. Equally, the act of painting can occasionally scare me- especially if Paul McCarthy’s film ‘Painter’ is at the forefront of my memory! It is at times like these I return to the palette I feel safe with; Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre and dark green-blues.
“They act as a kind of constant to me, however turbulent my personal life is, these mountains are always standing as tall and unyielding as when I left them...”
B: Which artists are influencing your work at present?
AS: My new favourite artist is Kai Althoff. However, I personally believe, it is dangerous to become overly influenced by any artist. Even if your preferred painter is very contemporary and still making fantastic work, they are normally a generation above us and we as young painters should not just appropriate a mixture of different attributes and styles of our heroes! But of course, there are painters whose work I love and find incredibly pleasurable to look at. This includes people like: Alice Neel, Keith Vaughan, Arshile Gorky, Josef Albers, Amedeo Modigliani and Daniel Richter, Tim Stoner and Ryan Mosely.
B: You have been selected for the Lynn Painter and Stainers Prize, the Clyde and Co and the Collyer Bristow Awards and you also have other exhibitions coming up for 2017. How do you feel about this? Do you find having a busy schedule affects the way you work?
AS: It is incredibly rewarding and validating to my practice being selected for these awards. I believe all artists go through peaks and troughs with how they feel about what they are making, and (although you shouldn’t rely on other people’s opinions) it is nice knowing someone had a positive reaction. My schedule is a lot busier than during my BA: with shows, studio visits and lectures - but like the old saying goes ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person to do’! Everything is new, as I am only in the second term of my masters, but I’m really excited about this journey that I have just started!
Antonia Showering, New Faces , 2016.
Oil on canvas
Courtesy the Artist
© Antonia Showering