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Artist Interview: Monica Maja Richardson - FAD Magazine

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FAD Magazine covers contemporary art – News, Exhibitions and Interviews reported on from London

Artist Interview: Monica Maja Richardson

Abstract painter Monica Maja Richardson has an upcoming exhibition of her work in West London and we spoke to her in the lead up to her show about how she moved from working in television to painting and what we can expect from her latest works.

Tell us about your journey from working in television to becoming an artist?

I think my initial spark and interest in art came from my great uncle who was a priest and used to paint as a hobby. While my parents used to take me to museums they weren’t so comfortable with me making a mess in my home so it’s only when I moved out that I got comfortable with painting.

I had a career as a television presenter in Italy, travelling to film festivals around the world. It’s only when I moved to London in 2004 that I fully embraced painting and even then I was mainly painting for myself and friends and family. 

The major turning point came when I first exhibited in Kensal Rise and to my surprise the show sold out. It gave me strength to take this on full time professionally and the joy of knowing that people engage emotionally with my art. 

Why did you choose to become an abstract painter?

I loved art but I thought I couldn’t draw or paint portraits, and I wasn’t formally trained – therefore my door to art was firmly closed as in my early years the art I had been drawn to was largely Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by the likes of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet and Degas – and I felt I couldn’t create works like those.  

It’s only as a teenager that I discovered Jackson Pollock and realised that abstract art existed, this was then followed by Gerhard Richter and that was another major discovery for me. It’s works by both these artists that continue to be an inspiration for me and I see them both as my spiritual teachers. When I’m working I imagine how much more creative someone like Jackson Pollock would have been with the abundance of paints that are available to artists today.

Frida Kahlo is also an inspiration even if her painting style is different from mine. I loved her as a woman, loved the rebellion, resilience and the strength she had. It’s her lifestyle that truly inspired me, and the fact that she’s now more famous than the famous artist she had married.

What can you tell us about the latest series of paintings that will appear in your solo show?

Since I’ve had a studio it’s allowed me to paint during the day and that’s reflected in the colours and the light in my paintings. We all have different energies during the day versus night, and that can be seen in these works that feel more relaxed and reflective. The show is called ‘Transformation’ and it definitely feels like a year of transformation for me and my paintings. 

I see them as optimistic works and that is a reflection of painting being my happy place – when I’m alone in the studio producing works. 

What do you want people to take away from your works?

I’m open to people interpreting my work any way they would like to and I’m always intrigued by what people see in my work, whether it be a face or the natural world. When I start out I have no idea how my paintings will look when they’re finished and it’s only by applying layers upon layers of paint that they start to take shape. 

What’s important to me is people who view my works feel something, anything, as each work has been created with feeling and so it’s important that audiences connect with my works emotionally. 

Working in television as a woman it always felt like there’s an age limit to that career as a presenter. In art I feel like age is not a factor and I can continue painting as long as I have the creative energy to keep producing artworks – and that’s going to be a very long time.

Monica Maja Richardson: Transformation is on at 19 Kensington Park Road W11 2EU from 20-25 February 2024.

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