Anita Klein is an office favourite. Her ‘Walking Home’ painting (pictured below), takes pride of place in the centre of the Brownhill office. We caught up with her recently and here is what Anita shared with us.
Q: Can you briefly tell us about where you trained, and in what medium you specialised?
A: I did a foundation course in art and design at Chelsea School of Art, followed by a 4 year BA in Fine Art (Painting) at the Slade, and then a 2 year MA in Printmaking, also at the Slade.
Q: What inspired you to take up art, and what inspires you now to create your work?
A: I have always drawn and painted to express my everyday emotions, and my work is much like a visual diary. I drew like this even as a very young child. . I want to celebrate life in my work, particularly small, ordinary moments and intimate relationships. The starting points might be pushing past my husband to get to the bathroom mirror, having breakfast with my family, having a cup of tea with my daughters, watching Holby City with a glass of wine or more often these days a solitary walk in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
I don’t think that art should need to be explained in words. If my pictures don’t communicate without a commentary then they are not good enough. Having said that, after working for thirty years, I can look back at my work and see it a bit from the outside. Therefore I can tell you some things I think it is about – but I would much prefer that you had your own story. I think we all have a lot in common and the people who like my work see themselves and their lives in it. I don’t want you to think you have a picture of me on your wall, I’d much rather you felt that it was you. What I feel I want to do is celebrate ordinariness; I want to celebrate the poetry of the everyday. The things we are all too busy to notice.
Q: What, in your opinion, is your greatest artistic achievement?
A: Continuing to paint and document my life while my children were growing up.
Q: Splitting your time between London and Anghiari in Tuscany, Italy, must be inspiring. Do you prefer working in London or Italy?
A: I paint in Italy and make prints in London. I am very fortunate to be able to make a living by selling my work, but this does mean that I spend a lot of my time on admin and running the business. It is difficult to really experiment, play and take risks in my work if I am constantly interrupted, so I set aside one week every month to go to Italy alone to paint and try new things. In London I reinterpret some of these ideas as linocuts , lithographs and etchings. This process is less vulnerable to interruptions. My work has changed in style gradually over the years. Style is not something you invent. It is just how it comes out for you. For a long time I did very autobiographical, prosaic pictures of my children and husband at home. I am still doing that, but during the last seven years my work has become more fanciful and dream-like. This is the influence of the Italian week each month. Being there is like a retreat, and after a week on your own you get a bit weird. I try not to censor what I paint and if I have an idea for a painting, I have time to make myself try everything. Pictures that happen there are a bit further from prosaic reality. I roll them up and bring them back to London, and when I open them I am quite often surprised – like when you wake up from a dream and wonder “why did I dream that?” When I go to Italy I’m able to stop and hear the grass grow, and notice small things. That is very important.
Q: Finally, who are you most consciously influenced by, or which movement of artists are you most influenced by?
A: I believe art should be beautiful. That’s very unfashionable at the moment. Students in particular often want to know where the angst and unhappiness is in my work. I think we all have difficulties and life is not easy, but I want to hold onto the things to celebrate. I’m not trying to deny pain, but I think we all are incredibly lucky in the lives that we have. Beauty is a gift to all of us. I have been very inspired throughout my career by early Italian renaissance painting fresco painting. Those are the pictures that I find most beautiful. They hit me in a way that I can’t explain. I can feel moved to tears and ideally I would like my work to be beautiful like that. It’s what I’m striving for – a balance that feels calming to look at, but like Giotto or Piero della Francesca, includes the viewer by conferring dignity and beauty on the ordinary and depicting it as miraculous