In the Studio With Antonia Showering
Advisory Perspective

In the Studio With Antonia Showering

By Will Hine | London, 3 February 2022

Rendered in electric colours, Antonia Showering's semi-abstract compositions of figures in natural landscapes seek to convey the 'sensation of wanting to be held or to hold.' Painted in the early hours of the morning, they are reflections of Showering's inner world, emanating sensations of both intimacy and solitude. The artist shares the making of her latest body of work, now on view at Timothy Taylor, London.

You've just opened your first solo show at Timothy Taylor. I wondered if you could speak about the inspiration behind this most recent set of paintings. Do they feel like a natural progression from your previous work? And was there any aspect you were aiming to explore further?

My work has always been very introspective. I want my paintings to bring abstract, shifting emotions into the physical world and make them concrete for viewers to hopefully recognise something from their own inner worlds.

For this exhibition, I think the connective tissue is that the works focus on human connection and all the complexities that come with it. Comparing the different atmospheres in my new paintings to my previous body of work, I can definitely see a slight shift.

Antonia Showering, The Survivors (2020). © Antonia Showering.

Antonia Showering, The Survivors (2020). © Antonia Showering. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London / New York.

I think this is partially to do with the paintings being drawn from my reality, but also from becoming more comfortable with what it is I am wanting to reveal. The scenes depicted are invented as memories merge with fears, desires, and regrets, yet they feel like the truest way for me to express myself.

Sometimes an image can touch on something that might sound clunky and awkward when described with words. The paintings from my last body of work, Introductions with White Cube, were made during the first lockdown, and there was a strong sense of yearning and loneliness running through many of the pieces.

I wanted to turn the universal sensation of wanting to be held or to hold into a visual, tangible image on a canvas. My new paintings in Mixed Emotion with Timothy Taylor feel like they have slightly departed from this moment in time.

The characters within the works and overall atmosphere of the new paintings are viewing intimacy and isolation from a new perspective.

I'm curious to know about your painting process and technique. How do you begin working on a new image and ultimately arrive at a final composition?

Antonia Showering, You and me (2021). © Antonia Showering.

Antonia Showering, You and me (2021). © Antonia Showering. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London / New York.

After sizing my canvas, I use a large brush to cover distemper over the surface. This creates a slightly off-white ground. These initial marks are very automatic with lots of flicks and drips and done whilst the canvas is still lying flat on the floor.

Once this dries, I tend to use a lot of paint on the first layer, reacting to these initial marks. You feel so brave at this point as the possibilities of where it is going are endless and you have nothing in the image you're feeling overly attached to or wanting to protect from these big brush strokes.

The figures that you depict have an almost spectral quality and are not always clearly defined. I wondered if when you're working you have specific people in mind, and whether they recur throughout different bodies of work?

Antonia Showering, Sacrifice (2021). © Antonia Showering.

Antonia Showering, Sacrifice (2021). © Antonia Showering. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London / New York.

I am purely focusing on colour pairings and marks at this point. It is quite physical. I rotate the canvas and as the paint dries, I start to search within these abstract shapes for figuration. It can be quite spooky responding to the brushstrokes—I have occasionally stood back and recognised very familiar characters in very familiar spaces, drawn out from a subconscious state.

As I rarely plan paintings, I draw directly onto the canvas. Many compositions and cryptic, personal symbols enter and leave the image. There is a lot of rubbing back and glazing over. Some paintings have three or four paintings below the final surface, with only light traces still visible at the end.

This process feels similar to how we hold information in our minds; parts exaggerated, obscured, and others totally concealed and wiped away, as if we are forgetting.

I definitely find myself switching off from reality when working, which is why painting at night works best for me. There are far few distractions at four in the morning! When the painting is finished it is an instinctual feeling.

Antonia Showering, Just have fun (2021). © Antonia Showering.

Antonia Showering, Just have fun (2021). © Antonia Showering. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London / New York.

They do recur, but I don't always know who they are. They're often composites of different people from my past or present, but they're also simply characters—projections of my own imagination, the same way the people who inhabit your dreams or memories are not the people they are in real life.

In a way I want them to be as unknown to me as they are to the viewer; I want the viewer to see figures from their own lives in the paintings, too.

Nature is clearly an important part of your work, too, with mountains, valleys, and lakes frequently reappearing throughout the paintings. Where does this kind of imagery come from? Are they intended to be ambiguous spaces or are you drawing on very particular scenery?

The landscape elements of my work are more imaginary. They're more symbolic and surreal than the figures. Water is recurring in my paintings, I think because it reminds me of memory. Even the words that we use to describe the two are similar: 'reflect', 'mirror', 'flicker', 'plunge', for example.

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022).

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022). Courtesy Timothy Taylor.

As a whole, the landscapes I paint are refractions of my inner world; for example, I always paint these three mountain crests I remember from my childhood. Someone once told me that it reminded them of how Cézanne used to paint a mountain in Aix-en-Provence outside his window over and over again.

For me, they're part of a scenery I remember from visiting my Swiss grandmother throughout childhood, and they anchor a scene. They suggest a sense of safety and stability despite the turbulence of the passage of time.

Your use of colour is also very distinct, with paintings built up through layers of ochre, green, and red. There is both a warmth and an otherworldly quality to these colours. What drew you to this palette initially?

I often paint at night. There's a certain time in the early morning, almost dawn, where you're in a sort of hazy trance, and that's often when I choose colours. I'm attracted to the way certain colours vibrate off each other: ochre and crimson, sap green and pink...

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022).

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022). Courtesy Timothy Taylor.

I obsess over finding the perfect pigment to ignite the canvas; to create electricity. When I force two colours I haven't used together and they work, I get a physical reaction, which feels similar to when you taste something new for the first time.

Certain colours suggest states of being to me—intimacy, emotional ambiguity, diffidence—they feel right in the moment to describe emotions that go beyond words.

How do you feel after completing a whole body of work for an exhibition—do you feel relief or a sense of loss? Do you start working again immediately, or do you take a break before embarking on the next idea?

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022).

Exhibition view: Antonia Showering, Mixed Emotion, Timothy Taylor, London (26 January–5 March 2022). Courtesy Timothy Taylor.

Great question! I was really savouring the final few marks in the last painting, which went into this show. I knew I had finished, but part of me wanted to hold onto the moment a little longer as it has been such a journey.

When the work was collected, I thought I'd be in the studio the next day as there was so much adrenaline running through me, but once all the works were collected, I felt hollow. The studio did too—it almost echoed with emptiness.

It makes sense, as months of fleeting thoughts, feelings, and experiences have been loaded onto ten canvases, which have now left. But I'm really glad to be able to share them with the world, and it feels good to see the new works together in such a beautiful space.

I have been drawing in my sketchbook and will definitely start painting again very soon. There really is no better feeling than when you are painting and it feels like it is heading in the right direction. So hopefully the studio will be replenished before too long! —[O]

Main image: Antonia Showering, You and me (2021). © Antonia Showering. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London / New York.

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