John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang: “We are all water from different rivers that’s why it’s so easy to meet.” Since I started interviewing artists and sharing my work on FB and Instagram, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people from all over the world. Art is one of those things that has an international language – an incredible unifying quality. It doesn’t matter where you live, what sex you are, what language you speak, what god you honour, all artists share a compulsion to create. And in that process of creating, there are so many of the same questions we wrestle with, experiences we have, and struggles that we face. Given art is often a very solitary occupation it has been my desire to seek out artists and have a place where we can effectively meet and talk about our process and for me, personally, to learn from others. Increasingly FB requests are sent to me, people comment on my posts, I like their paintings, we exchange a few words, and thus I am finding artists and they are finding me. These kinds of explorative tentacles you send out into the world have this wonderful way of making contact with and intertwining with others on their own respective journeys. And it is in this way that I came to know the artist Adrienne Stein, although I knew her work before this through the RJD Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York.
The recent paintings of Adrienne’s that I’ve seen in the flesh are whimsical, magical, and haunting – a series of almost other-worldly women and still life ensembles. And while there’s a fantasy quality to her work, the characters are brought to life with beautifully observed attention to detail and classical skill. There’s a seductive Pre-Raphaelite beauty to these women and in some of the paintings, hints of decay in the landscapes that are somewhat unsettling. Like Sirens, they appear to draw you into this beautiful, magical, and potentially dangerous world in which they inhabit.
What struck me as most unusual about Adrienne’s work is how she creates these incredibly whimsical narratives from life painting. Perhaps I came to painting late in life, but these days it seems that so many artworks rely on photographic reference due to very practical limitations like finding models, props, animals and creatures to paint, and especially for esoteric subject matter. But here I saw photos on Adrienne’s Instragram account of great armfuls of flowers in her studio, models draped in diaphanous jewel-coloured fabrics, and bowls of fruit spilling out on her windowsill. Just like the old masters, she was constructing these sets from which to make her paintings.
I was incredibly curious to find out more about this way of working, and then of course to enquire about her inspiration given my own subject matter tends to be fairly straightforward portraiture. Where does she get her ideas from? How has she arrived at this way of working? Adrienne very generously agreed to answer these and a whole host of questions that form the conversation that follows.
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