Annabel Keatley is an English painter living on the Granada Coast. Her paintings capture the essence of Andalucia with her vibrant color and layered textures on canvas. We met at her shop “Espacio Creativo” in Almunecar, to discuss the meaning of art and the search for authenticity:
Bridget: What is the best headspace for you to be in when you’re creating?
Annabel: Quiet. Peace, and with inspiration. In London being a painter was my sole identity. I was in the studio every day, I think I ruined a lot of work just by over-working them. I think you need to do and see other things in order to be your whole person.
B: How do you know when a painting is done now?
A: When it says something different and new. When you’ve pushed yourself until you get to a point where it says something to you. Everything has to come together and that’s what I find really hard. It takes me months to finish one painting and I only work on one large canvas at a time. Other artists can have an idea and then paint the idea; for me it’s a whole evolution working with the actual paint and texture and seeing what happens when I’m doing it.
B: Can you talk a little about your studio practice?
A: I only work in the day; I need the natural light. I wake up at 6 every morning and meditate for an hour. That is what keeps me able to do so much. But also my studio practice is very erratic. I don’t go into the studio every day although when I’m painting for a show I get that focus back.
B: In art school you’re taught you must have this rigid, disciplined studio practice; it’s refreshing to hear you be honest about how undisciplined your discipline is.
A: See, I don’t think that way of thinking and working is real. That is what I used to do. I worked 10-3 pm every day in my London studio. And had my lunch in my freezing cold studio as well. But that way of working eventually made me ill, [with chronic fatigue].
B: Did it feel risky leaving your successful career as a painter in London to move to Spain?
A: I didn’t know how to live my life well in London, I wasn’t happy. I was trying to please other people all the time. When I first moved here, I realized I needed to change the way I thought. Mediation really helped me with that.
B: Do you see a difference in your work through practicing mediation?
A: Definitely. I’ve changed so much. My paintings became much lighter when I moved here. When you change, your work changes.
B: Your recent work isinspired by the Andalusian landscape. Can you talk about what the essence of this place means to you?
A: It’s a sort of authenticity. It’s really natural and unpretentious. In London everyone is chasing their version of success. Galleries are all about names and titles. I’d had enough of that when I left. Here it’s much more down to earth and full of love.
B: What artists influence you?
A: My favorite artists are almost all abstract artists, like Sean Scully, Rothko and all the colorists.
B: Anyone contemporary?
A: Two months ago I got the internet in my house so I’ve started looking at other artists, but for years I never looked at anyone else’s work. All these years, when my children were growing up, I was finding out who I was, and I wasn’t interested in looking at other artists.
B: But don’t you find it your responsibility as an artist to know what other people are making? What the current creative dialogue is all about?
A: Well that’s what people say, but I think your responsibility as an artist is getting to know who you are. You have to work out what’s important to you, what makes you happy or inspired. If it makes you feel good, to have all that knowledge in your head, great, but I don’t know if that’s a requirement. What really helps is getting to know who you are; that’s what makes your work better. I believe that whenever you create anything, the creativity is there, you’re just tuning into it, then it comes through you and you paint, or whatever you want; everything is creation. It’s not important how someone else is expressing themselves; it’s important what you want to say creatively.
B: Did success ever matter more to you than the work itself?
A: No, because you never think you’re successful when you are. There’s always somewhere else to go, you can’t ever get to the top. You can’t ever reach success because you’re always creating, and you never think your work is good enough. My paintings change all the time. I can paint 10 or 20 paintings on the same canvas. All artists are looking for something, that’s why we keep going.
To see Annabel’s work go to annabelkeatley.com