Interview: Abigail McDougall on new directions and prepping for Open Studios

Abby has recently been busy preparing for JSA’s Open Studios, as well as her own exhibition under the name of her gallery, Bristol Contemporary Art. The exhibition ‘Supernature’ revolves around the theme of the magnificence of nature. Exhibiting 20 artists, the pop-up exhibition will be open in Cabot Circus until the 29th of June.

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Abby has recently been doing a lot of paintings on location, inspiring the initial background landscape in the work. She then takes them back to the studio and makes them more exotic by experimenting with new colours. ‘Normally I do landscapes that are of cityscapes, such as Bristol or London- they’re very much based in reality but I’ve been developing this other set of work which is a bit more fantasy- based, with an element of the exotic. I finished this piece yesterday [below] which I’m going to show at the exhibition. I’m trying to create more of a dreamlike quality in my paintings.’

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Abby has been a part of the Jamaica Street collective for about five years and loves the constant inspiration that the studio environment offers. ‘When you’re at university you see other people work and you get inspired, but this is another level because people here are professional artists and they’ve got different ways of making it work.’

She was involved with the studio for a few years before she actually got a studio space. She says, becoming a part of the studios ‘kick-started’ her career. Although Abby had sold some paintings from when she was as young as 12, the work she sold at the Open Studios was the first time she had sold any paintings since she graduated.

Abby originally came to Bristol to pursue music; ‘It was so hard, the industry was going through a lot of changes, I sold a few pieces of art and that set me off. My style has changed so much, and I’ve learnt a lot too. The more you do, the more you learn and develop.’

One of Abby’s most prominent artist inspirations is Jane Corsellis- she grew up with her work around the family home. ‘It’s really amazing, beautiful impressionist style work. I learnt a lot about colour and light and atmosphere by looking at her work. She’s a big influence because my the exposure to her work, her colours and light stand out a lot more than other impressionist work.’ Abby has also been inspired by Paul Klee’s watercolour paintings; ‘Again it was the colours, but also the abstract shapes and the set of paintings he did in Tunisia, which used really unusual blocks of colour, which inspired me to look at the landscape and composition in more of a geometric way. Although a lot of my paintings are quite realistic, there’s also that element of abstraction too which came from looking at his work.’

You can see Abby’s work at Open Studios in June.

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Photos and words: Summer Brooks

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