Wednesday, 18 February 2015
An interview with the artist Stefanie Trow
Stefanie Trow - a South Yorkshire painter living in Manchester - plays with textures and colours. Her paintings convey the fascination she has for human form, and explores both her own and other people’s perception of beauty. It is with tremendous enthusiasm that the Portico Gallery welcome Stefanie’s impressive portraits for a month in February 2015, alongside the works of David Earle and Ian Mood.
When did you start being interested in painting? How did you know you wanted to be an artist?
From about 12. That is when I seriously thought about what I wanted to do. I remember discovering - thanks to my art teacher - Jenny Saville. And I remember thinking: ‘that is what I want to do’. I loved how she conveyed messages and ideas through the use of paint, and this always resonated with me.
I started painting more during my A-Levels. My art teacher made me paint! He would not allow me to use pencils anymore in an attempt to force me to paint. It was a strained relationship but it worked. I clicked with the medium and realised I was quite good at it. Before, I was too scared to paint. From that moment, I started to paint more than I drew. I realised you could do more with paint and colour. Through university I just carried on and never really looked back.
Can you tell us more about your style and what you want to convey through your work?
I have always tended to make portraits and figurative works, from a young age. I guess I have always been interested in people and people’s faces, mixing paints and emulating skin color. With the paintings displayed, I wanted to move away from conventional portraits. I took the images from fashion magazines. I used photographs as a reference, but I didn’t want to rely on them. The purpose was that I wanted to take an image of a women that has been highly photoshopped, and I wanted to take that away from that context, to deconstructed it, and deface it. My aim was to show that you don’t have to photoshop any images to still be beautiful. I think we are surrounded by images that are photoshopped, as if everything had to be perfect. Some of the paintings are a bit unnerving, and not exactly beautiful, I am pushing towards that. I was trying to show flaws within the images, that is why I used bold broken brushstrokes.
Talking about technique, how do you work?
I use all different sized paint brushes. At the beginning, I sketch out the image, working from the one that I have found. I then build it with the acrylic paints. When these are dry, I use oil paints, because acrylics dry quicker than oils. I obtain this visual effect from several layers of paints. I have to keep waiting for them to dry and so I usually have a number of works on the go: whilst one is drying, it will take a couple of days, I work on another one during that time. As an example, this series took me about two to three months.
How did you learn to paint?
My parents also painted, so I learnt the basics from my dad. We would talk about stuff at school, and then I would go home and talk to my dad about it, asking ‘how do you do this, and that?’ So both from school and from my parents. But my technique is something I have developed. I have never had someone tell me: ‘this what you need to do to have this effect’.
Who are your main references?
I would say Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Jenny Saville to name a few.
How does this work compare to your previous work? Is this series a rupture or a continuation?
The last ten years I have worked on a lot of commissioned portraits. I have never really been able to do my own work, my own style. This is a clear step in the direction I want to go and produce my own work.
I am working on new works. I am pushing forward my style of painting. As an example, there are two pieces in the exhibition that are quite photo-realistic: Attraction and Deflection. They are quite realistic, whereas I think my next work will carry along with a more expressive approach. There will still be a realistic and figurative element, but I want to push the expressive style and concepts surrounding the female form.
Interviewed by Mathilde Armantier