Arabel Windsor Hoye meets the avant-garde artist Anna Mazzotta. Trained at The Wimbledon School of Art and The Royal College of Art and painting primarily from her imagination, Anna is heavily influenced by Art Deco, the theatre, silent movies and jazz. One of the youngest ever winners of the highly prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize, she is understandably a fierce defender of the medium and is somewhat disparaging of some contemporary trends in the art world.
AWH – So tell me why you feel particularly passionate about drawing as a medium?
AM – Because drawing is just as important as painting, if not more important. It’s purer. It just tells you if you’re an artist or not! With drawing you can’t hide behind paint, you can’t hide behind shapes. I think, especially in colleges, drawing should be pushed more, up to the same level as painting.
AWH – I remember students used to draw at college?
AM – Yes, they used to but I think since, I don’t know if I should say this, I think Charles Saatchi has had quite an influence on the art world and not all of it was positive.
AWH – He changed the game didn’t he?
AM – Yes, it’s changed quite drastically.
AWH – Did you go to the Sensations exhibition?
AM – Yes and I know people that were part of the exhibition who I went to college with. Everything is too fast now in the art world now. I went to the National Portrait Gallery recently and there’s a huge focus on painters of big heads, big heads were everywhere? Big heads, big heads, big heads, everybody’s doing big heads and the reason people are doing big heads is because it’s easy. If you start with a big head you end up with a big head. Most artists are using a slide projector anyway.
AWH – Is that like painting by numbers?
It’s a trick and not many people know this, but they trace over the head and then just fill it in. Where’s the art in that? Anybody can do that if they have the apparatus. It’s not pure and they’re not suffering. I suffer when I paint. I suffer when I draw, just to get it right.
AWH – Physically or emotionally?
AM – Everything, everything, everything.
AWH – Has art become simply very clever marketing?
AM – Anybody could be an artist if you had the right people behind you, literally anybody. The ‘art’ now, is literally the art of marketing, not the actual work.
AWH – So, where is it all going wrong? Who are the custodians, is it the curators, the art colleges, is it the auction houses?
AM – I think they are all colluding with one another, even the press. Nicholas Serota (former director of the Tate art museums and galleries), he’s not helping much.
AWH – Yes it’s a bit sad. Does it need to start in schools?
AM – I think it needs to start in schools and we need to go out more. The National Gallery has good art, real art. I went to see the Russian Arts at the Royal Academy a few months ago. I love the Russian artists and their work is beautiful.
AWH – How long does it take you to create a piece of work?
AM – Generally, the drawings do not take me too long because they are spontaneous and it’s whatever I have in my mind at that moment. They are quite fast actually, even the larger ones could take me up to a day, two days at the most and they’re quite large.
AWH – And you’re drawing simply from ideas?
AM – I’m drawing from my imagination. If I had something in front of me I couldn’t do it. I have to be locked in, completely in my own world.
AWH – But you must have reference points?
AM – I’m a great film buff and I used to watch a lot of movies, I grew up on Hollywood films. It’s also what I see in the street, people. The other day, this lady with a green scarf walked by me and the reflection on her cheek was amazing. I kept that in my brain and I used it. I like to sit in cafes and watch people and shapes.
AWH – I’m amazed all of this work is from your imagination.
AM – Yes, there’s a lot going on in my head. I feel very intelligent when I’m painting and drawing but in everyday life I’m not very articulate. Loads of artists are very, very articulate. I’m more interested in what they actually have to produce, what their paintings are like and if they amaze me.
AWH – Does music have an impact on your work?
AM – I love jazz and I always listen to music very loud, when I’m working. Sometimes when I can’t hear the music anymore that’s when the inspiration takes over.
AWH – And where’s your studio?
AM – In my home, I used to have a studio at Spike Island (the Waterside exhibition space, cafe and creative hub for contemporary art and design in Bristol) but I found it quite distracting when the other artists asked me for coffee, I didn’t get any work done because I do like coffee. I’ve found I now need to be completely isolated.
AWH – Whose work do you admire?
AM – Well I know he’s dead, but John Bellany, I love John Bellany’s work and that of Paula Rego.
AWH – Do you consider yourself part of the scene?
AM – No, I’ve always been outside because my work is different. I’ve always been an outsider. When I started college everybody had a procedure style. They used wax which was a fad at college. I thought, why’s everybody doing the same thing? I wanted to do something different. Every time I had my assessment my tutor used to say, ‘And now for something completely different’, so I think it’s good to be different.
AWH – And how would you describe your painting style? Is it 1920s Art Deco?
AM – Timeless with a hint of vintage, a hint of 1920s or ’30s, it’s the era that I like, quite classy, like Vaudeville.
AWH – Finally, what’s the big ambition?
As long as I’m painting and making a living from it, I’m happy.