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TNC Archive 2015

Pauline Amos

Look at Your Self
The Church Performance & Painting 2015

Pauline Amos's new work will be shown in St Marylebone Parish Church, London, is a series of paintings titled ‘Look at Yourself’. The searching for the answers carries on, the polarity of the human condition, the love and hate, the vile and vicious, beauty and truth, is questioned again.


Hello Pauline, thanks for talking to The New Current, how's your 2015 been?


SO far, so good – really good actually. This year I visited Jamaica for the first time, I’ll be returning there to make new work, the colours and ‘shine’ of the place is lovely, the people are beautiful in all ways and great to photograph and paint. There’s an amazing wood – Iron wood, it isn’t legal to take it from the country, but it’s great to work with. There has been a lot of new work this year, I’ve been going at a 1000 mile an hour. New sculptures that have not yet been exhibited. I’ve had some time working in Spain, producing a new book / catalogue, and sound works with Josep Vallribera and Paz Caplin, and of course - new paintings. 


So 2015 – it’s been (so far) ‘very satisfactory’.


Are you all set for your latest exhibition next month?


Most of it is complete. Along with the paintings, there is a sound installation and a huge sculpture (I have never shown a sculpture before) and the mental preparation for a show. A performance that will take place on the altar in the church. The last minute pressure is the best time (for me) the stress and anxiety and excitement levels increase and I find, from that place, come the best ideas. A furious passion and ‘running at it’ happens. I am never ‘set’ for an exhibition until the doors have opened and people are there watching and looking. Then I have no choice but to get on with it.


What made you want to do this one-off exhibition?


All the exhibitions and performances I do are one offs really. I approach every show as a new entity, there’s never a repeat performance. That’s the work, the paintings sell, I make new ones, the work is new, fresh, alive. If I was repeating myself I would get bored and not bother.


Tell me a little bit about Look At Yourself, what was your inspiration behind this?


It began in Spain, I was working with Catalan artist Josep Vallribera and Scottish artist Paz Caplin, both incredible artists with massive amounts of work and history behind them, heavy weights. The visual works became sound works and a CD and book resulted from our meeting. From this I was using text and looking at myself, looking at the work, the work reflects the self. We all reflect one another. One of the paintings is ‘La Terra es la Nostra’ – the land is ours. I was in Spain on 11 September the day the Catalans had the referendum for independence from Spain. Also, more basically, an existential comment, I have done a lot of portraits called Reflection paintings – the polarity of the self, and life is the continuing question of – what are we doing? Who am I? What are we here for? If anything at all.


"...I have my own cypher, my own view of how things work and that goes into the work."

What are the biggest challenges you've faced putting on your exhibitions?


 Technical difficulties and finding any way possible to get large works into spaces. The gallery can be at times and I have had occasion when the gallery has limited me or stopped me from doing what I want to do. Thus why I have one offs and work independently, I do not like being controlled or fettered in any way.


As an artist is it hard to give up your work in this way, do you ever want to hold back giving too much of yourself away?


No, the work is the work and is what I do – and if I don’t do what I do and give 100% of myself, that is not being an artist. 


No holds barred – take it or leave and if you can’t take it you shouldn’t have joined in.


Was it a surprise for you to have gotten the response you got for Opera Paese?


The painting on sale for £1.3m in 2005? No, I knew it would annoy people thus why I did it. At the time I was unknown in London, and had had more success in Spain and Cologne. The artist has to be provocative, to disturb and stir the waters and make others sit up and think. It’s a dull world without art – however and whatever it provokes. But I don’t mean sensationalism or what I call ‘end of the pier’ art and gimmicks. I mean provoking intellectual and emotional responses.  


The late art critic Brian Sewell had some things to say about Opera Paese, what when through your head when you got his letter?


That was great! At first – I thought was being told off and thought Oh shit what have I done, in one statement from this great art critic I have just been wiped off the art timeline. But then I looked at the letter and re-read it, it was handwritten, he didn’t have to write to me at all and there was a sort of wink in the eye from him. I think he liked my cheek, although he said he wasn’t the least bit interested or curious in my overly inflated priced painting, but maybe he also thought – clever. It was a clever idea, provocative and it’s a good painting. So after the initial impact I was amazed and then very pleased he wrote to me. I had hoped to meet him one day – but sadly that will never happen now. Funny, isn’t it, from a distance how someone can have such a great impact and he may not have known but he helped me a lot. He added to my chutzpah, I have said thank you to Mr Sewell many times.


Have you always had a passion for art?


My mum showed me how to draw a face. I can remember that, she wasn’t an artist, a working class housewife in Liverpool, but I guess she wanted to give me something to grab hold of and the easy thing to do was to give me felt tip pens and paper, and keep me quiet.


So from that point it developed, not the passion or even understanding of what ‘art’ is, but ones desire and drive and then a dedication to ones own cause, of making the work. 


How much has your style and approach to your work changed over the years?


Very much – there’s always the same ‘flavour’, the code and language can be deciphered, I have my own cypher, my own view of how things work and that goes into the work. But as I have aged, I am more ‘free’ within myself, more at ease with life and the work shows that.


What inspires your work?


What is happening all around me, all around us, all of us, all the time. It’s a continual comment and view and trying to understand what is going on and making some sense of things, and then some small attempt to show the greatness and precious gift it is – being alive. Leonardo da Vinci – The Virgin of the Rocks, stand in front of that painting and the beauty will cause tears. I am not making such rich beauty like Leonardo, but maybe I entice a reminder; beauty is all around and saying to everyone Look at Yourself and see that.


What has been the best advice you've been given?


Look after the work and the work will look after you.


And finally, what do you want people to take away from your work?


A huge question and debate and intrigue in their heads.

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