INTERVIEW: Why Artist Ania Hobson Doesn’t Paint Smiles

The ability to skillfully paint anything other than a smudged rainbow has always escaped me. Thankfully I’m not alone, and capturing people’s imaginations through a piece of artwork remains an elusive trait for many. East Anglian artist Ania Hobson does this with ease. In my conversation with Ania, we talked through her striking use of women as well as her significance for female artists.

So much so that her work has gained recognition throughout the world. But the cherry on this successful and talented cake was the announcement that she had won the Young Artist Award at the BP Portrait Award this year. 

The winning piece “A Portrait of Two Painters” not only displays her impressive use of colour and ability to capture light, the mid-moment snapshot of the two women, herself and her sister-in-law, fellow artist Stevie Dix, conveys a mood of powerful invincibility. “I wanted to celebrate female artists, looking back in History they haven’t had much recognition. So I wanted to portray two female artists in this strong manner” The angle was of key importance in creating this mood with the boot serving as a totem for feminine strength “the way I composed the painting from underneath, and the shoe coming forward from the painting was to convey this strong, bold feeling”

Not only that but realising that your winning piece has provoked discussion in the art community is no small feat “Since winning the award I’ve had a lot of female artists coming forward and there has been discussion online celebrating women”

Certainly a wide array of female faces are present in the artists’ work generally. But the skill with Ania’s work is her ability to use different angles, creating a sense that each portraiture is a window into the life of someone else. This is further established when realising that on average her subjects don’t look directly at the viewer, as if they are unaware they’re being watched, the fourth wall is left unbroken. 

“With my painting, I look at how the bodies and figures interact with the interior or room, its a lot about the composition. I like to see something that sits well on the canvas. I enjoy painting challenging perspectives; I can paint from really high to really low [perspectives], only occasionally I’ll do a front on portrait. I like to think that is my skill and a recognisable feature of my work” 

Another distinct feature of Ania’s work is the manner in which she conveys emotion “I rarely paint smiles”. This choice allows for interpretation, with many viewers attempting to pinpoint what the subjects are thinking “I think a smile just gives away everything”.

No smiles means that the audience can relate to the image, by not forcing an emotion onto the viewer the viewer can create it by

using their own thoughts and feelings. “It [her work] has that muddy aspect as a result, because its not giving away emotion so people work it out and create their own story by trying to work out what the mood is and what the subject is thinking. I like the seriousness of it though because it keeps people guessing”.

Maintaining that communication, through a piece of work, with the audience is certainly key. Therefore highlighting the hard work and effort artists put in when creating work for public consumption, her advice for those trying to make it in the art world? 

“Never give up, I know it sounds very stereotypical but I think its [the art world] so competitive. Entering competitions, such as the BP Portrait Awards, is so good and getting that recognition as an artist is really important. If you get in, you get in and if you only get to the preselections thats wonderful as well. It’ll look good on your portfolio and it gets people’s attention because you’re doing something that judges will see. Don’t ever give up as an artist, it is hard but it’s definitely worth it in the end”.

To see more of Ania’s work and find out more about what she’s up to next, visit her website.

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