Interview: Anna Michell
Luca Curci talks with Anna Michell during ALCHEMIC BODY 2021, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Anna Michell started working as a fashion photographer in 2011 in pursuit of the dream she had since age 16 after stealing a copy of Vogue from Waterstones. Painting was primarily a passion project but a 2016 commission to paint a heavenly skyscape mural throughout a musician’s house in Peckham triggered the realization that perhaps this had always been her true calling. Anna’s vibrant personality and attention to technical detail are a perfect combination for creating unique images. Her experience in the fashion world with international clients including Harpers Bazaar, Elle and Cosmo, has influenced her artistic style, evidenced by meticulous focus on physical form and beautiful lighting. With an unashamedly female perspective, Anna Michell interrogates the status quo, her work depicting sensually rendered male bodies, surreal landscapes and characterful portraits of animals. An antidote to the tired straight male gaze that has dominated art for centuries, her paintings invite the viewer to step into her world and allow themselves to get lost in a fantasy.
LUCA CURCI – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
ANNA MICHELL – My background is in fashion photography so I’ve been making images of the human form for a decade. When the lockdown was first imposed in 2020 I couldn’t do my job, which normally involves working in big studios with teams of models, stylists and makeup artists, but I still had such an intense need to be creative and this led me to paint every day.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
AM – I’m completely in my own world. I have quite a precise nature and I get very caught up in details. When working on a photoshoot I’m in a hectic environment that requires constant communication with everyone in order to fulfill a fairly rigid brief, but painting is total freedom.
LC – What is your creative process like?
AM – Ideas tend to come to me in flashes. Once I’ve decided to execute a concept I have a fairly strong vision in my head of how it should look, so I take reference photos myself, as the lighting is very important to me. I’ll use the photos to make digital collages in order to get a better idea of the composition and color scheme, but I always want there to be room for it to evolve once I start working on the canvas – the piece takes on a life of its own when it’s translated from my mind’s eye to reality and I think it’s important to embrace that magic. I’m quite brutal during my process and if I’m not completely in love with the work then I’ll start again. I don’t mind too much if nobody likes my art, but I have to love it. At the moment I only work on one piece at a time because I just get very obsessed over it and I don’t want to do anything else.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
AM – Having a career where I’ve shot international magazine covers and worked with some of the most beautiful people in the world, my brain works very much in terms of form/figure and I think it always will. I am a straight woman who paints men and I don’t shy away from the power dynamic that is created by the female gaze.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
AM – I don’t know because I’m only at the beginning, but I’m having a fantastic time
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
AM – For me, the theme Body Alchemy instantly brought to mind humanity’s relationship with the earth. Not just how we interact without planet but on a deeper level how everything, including us, is made of the same thing. The fact that the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur can be arranged in such a way as to form a flower or a man is in itself its own alchemy.
LC- Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
AM – Tulip Garden explores the power of the female gaze and its ability to challenge ideas around traditional themes of masculinity. The colors and textures express softness instead of machismo while emphasizing equally the strength and vulnerability of a man.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
AM – For me, this is an opportunity to have my art seen by people who I would never have reached otherwise so I’m excited to see where it leads.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
AM – I think it’s amazing to be bringing together artists from around the world and sharing their creations with new audiences.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
AM – Yes, the team at Itsliquid are lovely people.