Samira Addo is a London-based artist who works in a contemporary realist style, with a focus on portraiture. A member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP), Addo was the winner of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year in 2018. As part of the competition, Addo was commissioned to paint the fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, while her prize as the winner included being commissioned to paint the actor Kim Cattrall. Addo’s portrait of Zandra Rhodes is now part of the collection at the London Fashion and Textile Museum, while her painting of Kim Cattrall is in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.
The Net Gallery: You describe yourself as a self-taught artist. Did you draw and paint a lot as a child, and when did you first start to produce pieces in a similar style to the work you create today?
Samira Addo: I did mostly arts and crafts when I was younger and did art until a-level. I first started to produce similar work in 2016 when I got my first art studio.
TNG: You tend to use a limited colour palette in your paintings, and sometimes fill the canvas with one dominant colour. How do you arrive at your choice of colours for a particular piece – is it something you decide before you start working on a painting?
SA: Yes, I generally have a starting point with regards to colour palette before I begin, and the inspiration for it can come from a variety of places. Sometimes it’s the expression and the energy of the image, other times it can come from what the subject likes, or just an exploration.
TNG: There’s often also a level of abstraction to your work. Do you consciously decide how to balance each piece between realism and abstraction, or is it more of an organic, free-flowing process as you work?
SA: I feel like the realism aspect is always there in the way that I do aim for the portrait to look like the subject with features in the right proportions, but I guess the approach to creating the likeness is less representative of traditional realism. The way I paint has definitely developed organically, but I do make a conscious decision on how much is necessary to perceive likeness.
TNG: How did you find the experience of appearing on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year and painting in that environment?
SA: The environment was great, slightly nerve wracking at first, but I had my family supporting me so that really helped. The staff and judges were lovely too. It was odd seeing myself on TV though!
TNG: How does it feel to have your work exhibited at both the Walker Art Gallery and the London Fashion and Textile museum?
SA: It’s great. I feel very proud and delighted that my work is amongst great work from the past and present, and that it’s in a space for the public to see.
TNG: How did you become involved with the CBPP?
SA: The artist Ian Goldsmith reached out to me to join the group and it sounded great.
TNG: The different styles and approaches of the CBPP members do a great job of showing how diverse portrait painting can be. Have you found it helpful to be part of the group?
SA: It has been good as it is a community of artists that I can learn from and pick up different tips with regards to portraiture specifically. Also, loving the opportunity to exhibit as part of a group.