To kick off our “Art Conversations” series we chose Contemporary Romantic painter Annika Connor. After visiting Annika’s Manhattan studio, I knew she would be the perfect person to help launch our new series. Annika is not only talented but also quite refreshing and humble. Maybe it’s her Southern (US)/Swedish roots. Hopefully through our conversation you will get a glimpse into the life of Annika Connor and her romantic watercolor paintings.
Phaon Spurlock (PS): When did you begin painting? And why?
Annika Connor (AC): As a child I was always drawing and lost in my imagination. I first started painting in oils when I was 9 years old under the instruction of a family friend near our mountain house in North Carolina. From the very first lesson I loved painting. I have not put down a brush since, and in many ways my paintings are still influenced by the sunshine and flowers I painted then.
PS: Why watercolors?
AC: I didn’t start painting with watercolors until 2003. I was living in London at the time, but I was in Atlanta for awhile curating a group show. I was there for over a month and after dealing with the gallery side of the art world for a few weeks I was missing my studio and needed to paint. To solve this, I picked up some watercolors and started what I thought would be studies for oil paintings for when I returned to London. However, the medium quickly mesmerized me and I soon was spending just as long on my watercolors as I would on an oil painting.
Because I come from an oil painting background, I approached my watercolors in a rather unique way, layering the surface with many glazes and scumbles like an oil painter. This is why many people today are surprised to discover some of my pieces are watercolors since the intensity of the color is much stronger then they imagine a watercolor would be.
PS: How does painting contribute to your life, outside of the love for painting?
AC: Well, the love of painting is the main part of it. Painting is a passion, an obsession, an addiction. It has taken over every aspect of my life. Painting shapes not only how I see the world, but how I relate to it as well.
Painting is a demanding master, it insists on constant improvement and development. Painting always asks to push it farther, to challenge myself more, to devote all my time to the studio. Like an expensive mistress, painting not only seeks to have all of my attention, but also wants all my money.
However, I, like any addict or besotted lover, am happy to give as much of myself, my time, and my income as I possible can in order to pursue the passions painting provokes.
PS: How many hours does it take you to complete a medium size piece?
AC: This is a hard question to answer as the time a painting takes truly varies from piece to piece. There are times when a painting is completed in merely a few weeks and other times when I might I have paintings in my studio for years. Some of my paintings are so detailed it is impossible to paint them fast. Other paintings are a constant struggle and I have to battle the brush to get it right. While other pieces seem like a breeze to make and they flow quite quickly out of me.
AC: I am half Swedish and half American. While I grew up in Atlanta, GA , and I spent most of the summers in my childhood in the Swedish archipelago outside Stockholm. My family also has a house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and we spent most of our weekends there.
I love all these locations and sometimes view myself as a Southern-Swedish mix. From the Swedish side I get all of my European influences. From my Southern roots, I get the occasion charming drawl, the willingness to talk to strangers, my old fashioned notions about courtship, and my love of dirty jokes.
I am not sure how either of these directly influence my paintings, but I suppose my attraction to the old world aesthetic, as seen in my decadent interiors, can be attributed to my European side, while the light and sunshine in my landscapes come from the memories of the mountains.
PS: What’s next for Annika Connor?
AC: Opening June 15th, 2013 will be my Summer solo show at QF Gallery in East Hampton. The exhibition, Annika Connor and the Hitchcock Kiss, is a very cinematic and narrative show. My paintings will take the viewer into a maze of color and detail.
The QF Gallery is located at: 98 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, NY. For more info please visit the galleries website at www.qfgallery.com or Like my artist page on Facebook where I will be posting photos from the show:https://www.facebook.com/
PS: In regards to the art world, what do you feel will be the next big trend?
AC: Well what I see is something that is already really happening. That is,a return to labor intensive painting which are made by the individual artist rather then mass produced pieces in a Warhol or Jeff Koons like factory.
I personally love Warhol and deeply respect the role both he and later Koons has played in shaping a contemporary dialogue. However, I think today people are fatigued with the idea of art as a mass produced object. The world is filled with branding and people are growing tired of over polished commercialism masquerading as conceptualism. In an age where everything is digitized to run fast, I believe the aesthetic eye wants to slow down and see craftsmanship in art for arts sake. Art lovers today are ready to turn back to idealism, to seek intellectual stimulation, and to pursue the simple longing for beauty.
PS: Any plans on opening a gallery? If so, what neighborhood?
AC: No. I love organizing the occasional big projects. However, my love of curating or producing shows usually comes out of ideas related to my own studio practice. About once a year through my company, Active Ideas Productions, I will put on a show, host some talks, or do a panel discussion series. I find this great fun and I welcome the chance to extend my ideas outside of the studio. However, running a gallery is not for me.
In truth, I am rather terrible at paper work and really any sort of organizing. I love finding homes for my paintings. I am delighted when they sell and I enjoy getting new collectors. However, apart from that, I have no real interest in the sale side of the business. I prefer to be the artist and idea maker. I deeply respect that goes into running a gallery, but I have no desire to personally take that on.
AC: Can I say all of Manhattan? What’s not to love?!?! Each pocket of this city is great!
PS: If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
AC: Alive: Gerhard Richter. But rather then collaborate I just want to study at the hands of his mastery and get him to teach me how to paint his clouds and the light of candles.
For a dead artist I would have loved to have collaborated with Klimt. How wonderful would it be to design stained glasses windows with him, build a pleasure garden together, and make a massively beautiful fountain in the center of a city.
PS: If you were not an artist, what would you do?
AC: Be a milliner and have a hat line. Or maybe I would be a tech entrepreneur. Both seems equally creative and as detail orientated like my paintings. Like artists, both the tech and hat world are into the idea of creating something new which never existed before.
PS: Out of all of your work, which piece would you say is your favorite?
AC: Ah this question is impossible for me to answer. Have you ever heard the saying if you ask an artist what her favorite painting is, it will always be the one she just finished painting? I find this to be sometimes true for me as I fall a little in love with a piece as I work on it. But then like dating in New York, before long it always seem to be on to the next one… ; )
For more information on Annika Connor, visit her personal website: www.annikaconnor.com