The mission of The Net Gallery is to grow a community of students, artists and curators brought together by the desire to create a new space in the art world – one where 3D capture technology empowers exploration, learning and connection. As the founding members of The Net Gallery, these creators help to build a grassroots art community.
One artist working within our creative community is Anna F MacDonald, an Abstract, Minimalist Artist from London. Much of her work explores Japanese aesthetics and the Zen philosophy of Ma.
This week, we chatted with MacDonald to get her take on the current climate and find out what she’s been up to.
Toby Buckley: What does your work aim to say? Are you interested in making work that comments on the current COVID-19 crisis in any way?
Anna MacDonald: Slow down. Look closely. Simplicity is beautiful. We need space to breathe. I think all these sentiments are as relevant, if not more during this crisis, so my message has not changed.
TB: Who inspires your work, and which other contemporary artists are you particularly enjoying right now?
AMD: I draw from so many Artists to inspire me; Victor Passmore, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Ben Nicholson, Toko Shinoda and Franz Kline.
I have always loved the St Ives Artists and their reverence for understated colours and natural materials. I also love the gestural mark making of the Abstract Expressionists, Norman Ackroyd’s moody seascapes, the subtle palettes of Morandi and the elegant brushwork of Japanese Calligraphists.
In regards to contemporary Artists I love the colour palettes of Deborah Tarr’s work, Dan Shaw Town’s mixed media work, the dramatic contrasts in Nikoleta Sekulovic’s work, the raw quality of David Otroski’s paintings and the simple compositions of Liza Giles.
TB: You’ve been teaching art for 16 years now alongside your own creative practice. Do you find the two roles feed into each other productively, or is it a challenge to balance them?
AMD: It changes, often one feeds the others. Finding Artists to inspire students reignites my passions for certain Art that I have previously overlooked. I still take Art classes to broaden my skills so I can support the varying needs of my students, which in turn develops my own practice. I visit galleries regularly to improve my subject knowledge which not only enriches my practice but serves to deepen my understanding of my own work. Although, having said that the demands of teaching are such that I often work 12 hours days and have to work on my day’s off (I teach 3 days a week), so some weeks I don’t make any Art. I have been able to create a better balance between work, family and Art making since both my children started school. When they were little, it was impossible for me to be a mum, teacher and Artist. Each requires so much of you. Committing to my own Art practice has definitely improved my teaching but I think it very difficult to carve out time to make Art if you are a full time teacher and have a family, so I count myself very lucky to be able to do both.
TB: How are you finding the experience of lockdown and how has it affected your practice and ability to work?
AMD: Yes. My kids are in my face most of the time! They are actually really good at leaving me to get on with my Art but sooner or later the distractions of domestic life return, which is really disruptive to creative flow. I need space and time to be creative, and I need quiet to listen to my internal thoughts. I need to feel the absence of maternal responsibilities, even just for an hour or two, but that can be difficult when you are constantly asked if you can have another bag of crisps. For now a lot of my practical work is making tutorials and online lessons for my students: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC04hIEDJABsjGv0-jtpLJWA?view_as=subscriber
TB: You have said your work looks at negative space and the spatial relationship between elements. Has the lockdown and the government guidelines around personal space made you look at that relationship in a new way, and will it affect your work?
AMD: What a fantastic question! Lockdown has only confirmed what I already felt. When you take things away, remove the excess, the superfluous you can take in what remains. So I have been applying that principle to aspects of my life, my home, my schedule, even my digital clutter. What do I want to keep? What is adding value and what can I get rid of. This is a constant journey that I am exploinge in my work too, so in that regard not much has changed, but perhaps the lockdown has made me think about the amount and quality of work that I put out into the world. Could I offer less? I don’t want to be the noise or the clutter in other people’s lives. That we need space in order to appreciate what is there, what we have. I don’t need constant interaction with people but meaningful relationships.
TB: What are your main coping strategies during the lockdown? What have you been up to?
AMD: Creating a home that I like to be in, and I LOVE my home. I include what I love into each day, simple things. Watering my garden, a good cup of coffee and listening to music. I go to bed early and get up before the rest of the family so I have some time to myself and I speak regularly to my beloved friends and sisters, who keep me on an even keel. Staying connected to others is so important now, which is why I am grateful for being part of an Art member group Connected Artists Club with Alice Sheridan. It’s good for motivating me to work, but also the feeling of being understood by others. I am also spending a lot of lockdown tidying and decluttering as I find it therapeutic and an act of gratitude to my home.
TB: Many artists are struggling to stay afloat in the current climate. What can readers do to support you and your practice at this time?
AMD: Sadly I had 2 major events cancelled, The Other Art Fair and Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition, but this work is still available on my website and via Saatchi Art, and I have a selection of small work under £200 as part of the Artists Support Pledge. I am also showing work at V Art show on 4th June 6-9pm, which will give viewers a chance to see my work virtually and have a live chat with me, which is the part I really love. I am most active on Instagram sharing currently available work but people can also sign up to my website for exclusive access to new work. If I get time in between my teaching job (which is currently seeing me glued to my laptop day and night) and trying (but mostly failing) to home educate my own kids, I plan to create some Art courses for which people can register their interest.
What I found so sad about these recent events being cancelled is missing that opportunity to meet new customers and really connect with them. It is not uncommon for some of my customers to become friends.