Isolation Interview with Evie O'Connor

We sent Evie a disposable camera and a set of questions about her time in lockdown...

Photography by Evie O'Connor

S: How has your routine changed since lockdown? Are you finding any time to make new work?

EO'C: I moved to London a week before lockdown so my routine here is all I know. I have a makeshift studio in-between two large racks of clothes in a spare room which has been fine allowing me to keep making work. I pretty much paint everyday unless I’m in the mood to have time away to research, relax, go for walks or cook. Painting and cooking is my sacred time so luckily I’ve still been able to do a lot of the two!

S: Is there anything that you are missing during isolation that has surprised you?

EO'C: I really miss the possibility of a new day holding whatever you want it to. I actually really hate routine and miss the spontaneity of doing something on a whim!

S: You recently moved from Manchester to London? How have you found the move? Can you tell us a bit about what it is like working as an artist in Manchester?

EO'C: I’ve not really been able to enjoy being in London yet as lockdown started a week after I arrived. Being an artist in Manchester has its pros and cons like anywhere else. Its a pretty cheap place to live and studio prices are good, but its seriously lacking funding in the arts which means there are hardly any spaces to show and there isn’t the industry set up to create a thriving community. The talent is definitely there, it just needs a better platform.

S: Are you working from a studio at the moment? If no, has that affected your practice? Are you finding any alternative creative ways to be productive?

EO'C: I really enjoy working from home because I like popping in and out whenever I want, fiddling around with paintings, taking photos, checking to see if things are dry, having all my books on hand for reference.. it definitely works for me. Of course during the early days of lockdown it was hard to get going but when I got into the flow it made me feel a lot more at ease. Space is of course an issue but unfortunately I think thats the case for a lot of young artists in London.

S: Is there any artist in particular who has had an impact on you and your practice?

EO'C: I remember when I discovered Folk Art, in particular the work of artists Horace Pippin and Clementine Hunter, I completely fell in love. I didn’t know there was a place in the art world for work that looked like that and I was totally amazed. After that I spiralled into researching self taught artists and outsider art, seeing the works of artists like Bill Traylor, Frank Walter and Grandma Moses definitely pushed me to be more free and playful with my work.

S: Your paintings often feature a solitary figure with a portraiture quality to them. Do you paint from real life, from photos or are these imagined scenes? Can you tell us a bit about this imagery and narrative in your practice?

EO'C: I always work from images. In the past I used to take parts from the original image of the sitter and combine them with memories or references from other paintings to create a surreal scene. Now I’m a lot more true to the domestic scene as its so rich in narrative without me having to fiddle with it. Over lockdown I’ve mostly been painting landscapes as I have an enormous archive of images on my laptop to work from. I think theres still a lot of room for exploration with the landscape, it’s gone through many evolutions and has garnered a bad reputation mostly dominated by the male hand but I think theres some great contemporary female painters bringing a sensitivity and lightness to the subject like I haven’t seen before.

S: Your painting lends itself beautifully to many different surfaces from painting on canvas, to pots, to clothing and pieces of furniture. Can you tell us a bit more about this process? Is there a favourite medium you have at the moment?

EO'C: I get bored pretty easily so I love switching to different surfaces. When I was on my MA in Glasgow I loved going to the charity shops and collecting vases, drawers, plates.. everything was so cheap it made it really easy to experiment. I’ve never turned my nose up at decorative art as I didn’t grow up going to galleries so for a long time I only experienced art from inside the home, be it through commemorative plates, bargeware jugs, textiles, prints etc.

S: What do you listen to when you work?

EO'C: I mostly listen to podcasts with music breaks when I need an energy boost. My favourite podcasts are:

- ‘You’re wrong about’, ’Where should we begin?' with Esther Perel

- ’The Daily’ by The New York Times

- ’Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness'

- ‘Say Bible Podcast’

Musicians I love listening to at the moment are Summer Walker, Bill Withers, Daniel Caesar, Victoria Monet, Kali Uchi, Sasha Keable, Chloe x Halle and Jill Scott.

S: What collaborations, if any, have been most successful in your work? If you haven’t had any yet, who are would you most like to work with?

EO'C: I collaborated with musician Klein on a book to accompany her play ‘Care’ at the ICA in London which was a great experience and I’m currently working on another exciting project with her. Last year I worked with Bistrotheque on a plate design for their 15th anniversary which I loved because the brief was basically “do anything you want!” and its really fun to see your work produced on a huge scale like that.

S: Thinking of your work outside of the gallery, where would you most like to work or who with? Be it a residency, company or space to exhibit in?

EO'C: I would love to be on a residency anywhere in the Deep South. I absolutely adore the work of photographer William Christenberry and his documentation of The South so I would love to follow his footsteps around Alabama. The rural landscapes, naive structures and churches are so striking. Then I could visit the home of Clementine Hunter in Louisiana and round out the trip visiting New Mexico to see Georgia O’Keefe’s house and work in the desert for a while.

S: What has inspired you most recently? Be it a film, book, quote or person.

EO'C: Its been incredibly moving to see the worldwide collective anger that spread after the death of George Floyd. Seeing people gather to rally and fight a system of oppression has been incredible to witness and be a part. I’m really happy to see the knock on effect its having across industries and the people calling out bullshit. A perfect example being the Marc Quinn statue. A year ago I don’t think there would’ve been the collective anger in calling something like that out, but now the right peoples voices are finally being uplifted and listened to.

S: And most importantly what is your favourite sandwich?

EO'C: Pastrami, cheddar, gherkins and loads of english mustard

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