Artspan sits down with painter Teresa Lawler
What types of subject matter do you find most resonant with your creative ideas?
My paintings deal with various subjects but I have always been drawn to people – whether it’s some form of portraiture or featuring the figure in a wider context. Although I trained as a painter ( Newcastle and the post grad school at the Slade) I’ve also worked as a set designer in TV and theatre in the past and elements of the screen often appear in my work in the way a subject is lit or a narrative is implied.
Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
Work always begins with a reasonably clear idea of what the image will be – then painting starts and all preconceptions go out of the window. Paint is such a wonderful medium in that no matter what you have planned the questions that it poses often force you to go in a direction other than that planned. Anything can change – from content to colour, from the positioning of a hand to the direction of light. Usually during this process the conceptual nature of the painting is clarified – a change of colour to a single element can alter what is communicated totally.
What projects are you working towards at the moment?
I am currently working on a series of ‘pool’ paintings. Again the figure features largely and again the references to film are evident in terms of story and/or visual drama . I enjoy working in series as it allows an exploration of a theme although I am happy to revisit subjects and in this way occasionally add to various ‘galleries’ on my website.
Are there any artists who particularly inspire you?
Too numerous to number them all – I have been steeped in the history of art for a long time and have found all kinds of work stimulating – 17th century Dutch artists, 19th century German romantics ( they could be film stills), Chinese brush painting ( from time spent living in Singapore) – but also many. many contemporary artists. I work with my husband/partner Roger Aslin ( another artist) and we encourage/ criticise each other’s work almost every day.
As an artist, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
From a tutor on my degree course years ago – don’t be afraid to paint out everything and start again. He also said go into the studio every day ( or as often as you can). To produce anything of interest you have to keep on producing…
What art work are you most proud of?
The painting I feel works in the way I most intended is ‘Then and Now’ in the ‘Shadowplay’ series. It’s a fairly large painting of a girl looking out from the canvas with her younger self jumping in the background. I wanted to communicate the difficulties of being at an age when you are starting to leave childhood behind, yet the child is still very much present .
In my paintings of childhood ( the ‘Play’ and ‘ShadowPlay ‘ series) I wanted to avoid sentimentality and show firstly the magical ‘other’ world that children become immersed in when absorbed in play and also the eventual process of leaving this world whether it is the figure of the girl in ‘Then and Now’ or the boy striving to reach higher in ‘Climb’.