Personal close-ups & parisian cafes with Ania Hobson
We’ve talked before about Ania Hobson and even though she does not need an introduction, we will tell you that she’s not only an excellent painter but she’s also recently been awarded as the Young Artist at the National Portrait Gallery. Today we ask her everything about her practice, from her fashion choices to her future plans.
Hi Ania! Let's start from the beginning: have you always wanted to be an artist, more specifically a painter?
I have always been into drawing since I was a kid, partly because both my parents are very creative and always supported this from a very young age. I remember there always being a big tin of colouring pencils present on our dining room table with numerous drawings from myself and siblings scattered over the house. Being a painter was never something that I wanted to take seriously as I always thought it was a hard career to pursue and never really that sustainable. For a long time I wanted to work as a vet because of my love for animals. As a child I struggled with my hearing up until the age of 5, and I think this played a part as I must have been using vision rather than my hearing right from the beginning. Once I started school and college I was getting awarded for the recognition of my work and this spurred me on to do more and to then to take it seriously as I worked towards making it my future.
You tend to mostly paint people in your close relationships like friends and family - why is that?
I am quite a private person and I work best in my own comfort zone. I prefer to paint my close friends and family because they are very familiar with my style and know what to expect. I like to curate my paintings with geometric compositions down to what they are wearing and this is easiest to do this with people I know, it’s sort of like acting, I tell them my idea and I get them to act out the scene down to the expressions I would like them to portray, this is a great way to create different characters in my larger paintings so some of the figures are not real people because they don’t really exist. I will sometimes use myself and distort my features to turn the figure into a different character.
You've recently shown at the Venice Biennale in Personal Structures, a group show at the European Cultural Centre. What did your collection shown there represent?
The collection that I am exhibiting in Venice is a series of paintings of myself, my sister and my cousins on a weekend trip to Paris. This was my first trip there and it had been a while since we had all seen each other. An evening in a cafe over glasses of wine and roll ups was the perfect place to paint this moment, sitting outside a cafe is a great place to people watch, where people come to talk, where stories are born and die.
I wanted to capture a conversation and the feel of authentic Parisian cafes, the dark, dated wooden decor and marble tables which have endured many conversations and secrets. I have always been fascinated with cafe scenes for instance - Edgar Degas, ‘The L'Absinthe’ or Toulouse Lautrec with all his cafe scenes of Paris. Visiting the city and immersing myself in it was the perfect place to feel inspired to create this painting. I wanted to portray young modern people sitting in a cafe, entwining the Parisian theme into the paintings. Every cafe already looks like a painting with their 70’s decor, chipped tiles and laminate wood. The colours are so earthy and rich with the harsh cheap neon lighting falling unforgivingly on peoples faces. Every sitting already looks like a painting, reminding me of the old french impressionistic paintings.
An evening in a cafe over glasses of wine and roll ups was the perfect place to paint this moment, sitting outside a cafe is a great place to people watch, where people come to talk, where stories are born
Your style is so unique, traditional yet contemporary. I love the idea of painting people of our generation, wearing the trendy clothes that you can see in Paris, London, New York... It sometimes almost feels like looking at a friend's Instagram photos from last night. Why did you decide to paint these subjects?
I like to work with fashion in my paintings, It’s something that we can all relate to and I actually really enjoy fashion myself. It’s a part of me and my generation. It’s a great way of creating that modern contemporary feel in a painting. I love using oversized almost military style coats in my paintings purely for the structure they create, it’s not necessarily about the fashion statement but more about the shapes and shadows produced by a large garment, and the boots give a confident statement to the women I am painting. My wardrobe mainly contains heavy long coats and numerous black boots for which I scour the charity shops, I will sometimes look at clothes specifically which I think will look good in a painting.
You've often portrayed yourself as well. What do you enjoy about it?
I tend to paint myself because I am not critical of how I portray myself in my paintings, I don’t really see myself in my work as a ‘Self Portrait, but I see it from the point of view of it being a painting and almost sometimes someone else. I also paint myself because I am always available and I work quite fast, when I have an idea I want to see it straight away, I’m quite impatient like that.
What artists are you influenced by and have you collected any piece yet?
Kerry James Marshall, Alice Neel, Paula Rego and Lucian Freud are all big influences to me, all for so many different reasons. Anything can influence me to normal things of how I was feeling that day to people watching in cafes, to situations I have been in that have affected me.
All these can subconsciously be involved in your painting without you even realising. I haven’t collected any artwork yet, it is something that I like to pick very carefully and it has to be right.
Finally, what's coming up for Ania Hobson next, is there anything planned for the near future yet?
I am working on a whole new series of large scale works, I am excited about all the ideas I have at the moment! I will also be appearing in a photoshoot feature in a well known international fashion magazine with 5 other female artists.
Follow Ania Hobson @ania_hobson