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Episode 66
Artist Anj Smith

  • 26 min read

Episode Description

A conversation with artist Anj Smith. Smith makes finely crafted and highly detailed paintings that beg the viewer to stop, look closely and contemplate what they find. She often finds inspiration in literature and poetry and her works ask questions about an unseen world that might be just beyond our perception. I spoke to Anj on the eve of her latest show “Where the Mountain Hare has Lain” which opened on September 15 at The Perimeter artist space in London.


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with artist Anj Smith. Smith makes finely crafted and highly detailed paintings that beg the viewer to stop, look closely and contemplate what they find. She often finds inspiration in literature and poetry, and her works are questions about an unseen world that might be just beyond our perception. I spoke to Anj on the eve of her latest show, "Where The Mountain Hare Has Lain", which opened on September 15 at the Perimeter Artist Space in London. And now an invitation to stop and think with artist Anj Smith.

Craig: [00:01:04] Anj Smith, thank you so much for joining me this week on the Art Sense podcast. And I like to start with a hypothetical, which is let's say you're at a dinner party and you're seated next to someone who has never met you, has no idea of your work. And they ask, Well, what is it? What do you do? How do you start to describe your work to them?

Anj: [00:01:27] You know, it's such a great question, and it's something that I get asked, as you can imagine, a lot. The answer is sort of a simple answer and a complex answer, and the two things are inseparably sort of intertwined. So I'll give you both.

Craig: [00:01:44] Sure.

Anj: [00:01:45] Okay. So the simple answer is that I'm a painter and that I use oil paint. Apart from when I'm drawing or etching, I use exclusively use oil paint on French linen, which I choose because it has a very tight weave. So it facilitates detail. And I would describe very broadly my painting as a sort of exploration of past languages, an interrogation of those in a way that forges a new perspective in painting. I would describe my work in that way. But obviously, you know, Craig, I've been painting for 25 years. My life has been completely dedicated to the act of painting. I think about it every day nonstop. I can't turn it off. So anything that I say in answer to that question always feels really reductive. And I think, particularly with the nature of my work, it explores the complexity of reality that's sort of inherent in the very structuring of the work.

Anj: [00:02:57] So I've always felt like a bit of a sense of frustration with the fact I could not come up with a very pat soundbite kind of response to that very authentic question. I've in recent years, felt a little bit better about this problem, though, because I sort of thought about painting that I really love. You know, whether that is somebody like Vermeer or in contemporary art, somebody like Ellen Gallagher. And, you know, I don't think that work can be summed up very neatly or easily either. And I think in great painting, I think there is an ingredient that is very difficult to quantify in language. It just is its own thing. It's it's a's a visual phenomena. And actually, within that, whatever that is, there is mystery and wonder and seduction. And that is such an important element in good painting, and that's something that I've come to really appreciate. So I've relaxed a little bit about answering that question more fully in terms of my own work.

Craig: [00:04:07] I think it says a lot about you as an artist in that there's a lot going on in your work and everything is so thoughtful. It's hard to try to quantify the size of all the things you undertake in your paintings, within a soundbite of someone who I always start with there with artists, because you're going to do a lot better job of describing what your work is then than I ever could. But in there you talk about Vermeer and Gallagher and how you're creating work that has a sense of wonder in a sense of mystery. Right? And that seems like a complex undertaking. How do you approach creating work where, you know, I mean, it's almost like, you know, you also talk about language. It's almost like you're you're a mystery writer, right? I mean, you're creating a narrative where maybe you know all the answers and you're leaving mysteries for us or maybe, you know, you're leaving mysteries unsolved in your own head. But it's kind of laid bare. Can you kind of talk about that part of the process?

Anj: [00:05:21] Yeah, absolutely. You know, it can feel quite daunting starting out with making a painting because that element that is so difficult to quantify, it's either there or it's not and it's not something that you can force. So actually, I never make preparatory drawings as such. I only make drawings made out of text. And I just the first thing I do when I get to the studio. When I start painting is to if I'm starting a new painting and I'm faced with a white rectangle, I immediately cover it with brown or a lilac color. And then I just have to trust the very nebulous and elusive process of trying to translate inspiration into a concrete object which will hopefully speak to other people. And honestly, it's it's a mysterious process, and it either works or it doesn't work. And there's not an enormous amount of control that you have over that. Where the control comes in for me is that I won't let a work out of my studio unless I feel it has that ingredient within it.

Craig: [00:06:33] So it almost sounds like your your process is almost meditative, right? You go in with some inspiration and you're well, it just seems like it could be very daunting going into your studio and not knowing if you're going to find that inspiration. Do you ever find yourself kind of stuck in that creative process? And how do you how do you get yourself going? If you if you do, is it finding more input or is it finding more quiet?

Anj: [00:07:04] It's actually a very, very good question. And I'm not quite sure why this has not happened to me, apart from the fact that I have a lot of demands on my time. You know, as a as a woman outside of the studio, I'm a parent, for example. I never feel as though I've experienced writer's block or painters block, whatever the equivalent is. I feel as though I encounter the opposite problem. Like I have so many ideas for paintings and thoughts. I keep a literal, physical diary and sketchpad full of information and thoughts and also notes on my phone. So, you know. I am 44 now and I have never encountered that paralyzing problem. And when I was a teacher, sometimes students would come up to me. I was teaching fine art painting on the Maas courses in London. I would always just recommend go and see everything. And you know, us artists, we're very curious people. And as soon as we see, as soon as we sort of flood our senses with something, inspiration will follow. I've always found anyway, that's been my best advice that I've been able to give former students of mine. But I actually have never encountered that psychological space for myself. It's like the opposite. It's like the frustration of not having enough time to myself in the studio. That's that's the opposite, really.

Craig: [00:08:37] My impression from reading about your work and in listening to you speak in prior engagements is that you fill your head with a lot of literature and a lot of poetry, and perhaps all of that input is what is kind of manifesting itself, allowing for there always to be a well to to draw from. Can you talk about that? I think one of the first words you mentioned about your work was was language. Can you talk about that relationship of literature, poetry, language? And we don't see that many words actually show up in your paintings other than maybe the occasional Iron Maiden patch. But, you know, can you kind of talk about how language and literature kind of play an integral role in your work?

Anj: [00:09:26] Yeah, absolutely. So my upbringing was quite eccentric. My parents didn't really believe in television or we didn't really go to the cinema or have magazines, certainly had no literature in the house. So it wasn't until I went to high school year seven in the UK, which is when you're sort of ten, eleven years old. I sat next to somebody who's become a great friend from that moment until the present day, whose mother was an English teacher. And so for the first time, thanks to those two women, I had an introduction into world literature. I actually remember the first book that I was given from my friend was "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. And I just remember devouring it, reading it all through dinner. My parents were very relaxed about reading at the table, fortunately, and from that moment on I realized, "Oh my goodness, you know, I can actually have a connection with other people through literature. I can understand life experiences that are not my own". And it became this portal into another world. And I think because I encountered that so early on and I had such a thirst for that, that it set my cognitive, it's shaped my thinking somehow. And yes, I'm one of those people that has piles of books, you know, cascading down in every room of my house, much to the annoyance of my partner. You know, I'm just one of those people. And in the studio, you know, the entrance to my studio is the overflow library. And that's just, you know, but I still find reading to be a huge source of comfort and restoration and inspiration. And, you know, the acquisition of knowledge is something that I really prized, particularly in our current moment.

Anj: [00:11:18] And yeah, of course I can talk about it. To give a recent example, in 2021, I had a show in England, in the north of England, in Walsall, a museum was there, and it was very much around the idea of the character of Ophelia from Hamlet. And that came because I was for the first time during lockdown, I read Hamlet. And, you know, I was completely struck by the character of Ophelia, who I mean, I've been to so many productions where she's some kind of mad hysteric, you know, running around the stage, throwing flowers at people in some sort of dreadful caricature of female hysteria or mental health issues. It was just something that's always rankled. But in the text, you know, Shakespeare gives her beautiful language and she makes perfect sense. She's not being irrational. She's actually proven to be right in everything that she says, even though she's gaslit throughout the entire play. Right. And, you know, it made me look very closely at the way that this character expressed herself. So, yes, she did give people flowers, but she handed Columbine to Queen Gertrude. So she was actually calling out the infidelity of the queen in front of the whole court. And that language of flowers would have been understood by Shakespeare's audience. It was quite common. And similarly, and perhaps more importantly, she juxtaposed different genres of text so she would have a fragment of a poem. And then she launched into a little bit of a song and there'd be prose fragments in there. And so, yes, one conclusion is, okay, this character is completely bonkers.

Anj: [00:13:10] But another interpretation and the one that I felt so strongly was that actually no, she's not. She's very sane, actually, but she's a portrait of marginalized experience. She's a portrait. And if we think of language. Language is a product of the society, of its context. So if that society excludes your agency and you've got no language with which to express yourself, then you have to look at the old linguistic codes and chop those up and reassemble them in order to express your life experiences that aren't recognized. And I just had a real moment in the studio. I just thought, My goodness, this is exactly what I am trying to do as a contemporary painter. So, yes, the character of Ophelia became very important and we called the show "A Willow Grows a Slant, The Brook", which is the place in the play where she meets her demise. But there's actually a really happy ending to this story, which is that the second venue for the exhibition was a museum in Italy, and I wondered how this was going to translate, but it was received really well and the Italians really love their Shakespeare and very knowledgeable. And there was a fantastic review in La Repubblica. And the headline was "Ophelia non asa". "Ophelia is not mad". Should feel quite emotional just even talking about it now because it just felt like a real personal vindication. And also, you know, it's a little bit of a complex statement. And the fact that people had understood what I was saying was absolutely huge. So that's just one very recent example of literature playing a part in the work.

Craig: [00:15:01] Sometimes across time, across media, we lose the subtleties of reference. And I feel like, you know, that's part of what you're dwelling on there with Ophelia is the subtleties of reference with with the flowers and how that audience would have understood it and how I feel like in other aspects of your work, you're kind of exploring're exploring maybe the overlooked, the unseen. Is there knowledge? Is there a fact or is there is there a whole world that we don't see because we just aren't privy to it or we don't slow down enough to look closely enough? Right? I feel like some of that is how you look at objects in the animal kingdom or the natural world and how you kind of incorporate those into your work.

Anj: [00:16:02] Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, the act of looking carefully is something that I am deeply connected with right now. I feel as though we live in such a fast paced cultural moment. I mean, I receive a lot of my information through constantly refreshing data streams of quite shallow sort of sound bite type information. You know, Twitter's very limited and its characters, and I have a bit of an anxiety over this. I hope that we don't lose our critical faculties. You know, our ability to question is a pretty important tool and a skill for navigating the world. And the moment we find ourselves in, you know, particularly in a political sense, there's a lot of very simplified rhetoric that sounds great but is extremely toxic. So I think that it's very important that we retain moments of deep thought and those from my perspective, those can't really be facilitated unless we stop and allow space for those thoughts to unfurl. I hope I hope anyone looking at my work, I hope they find something there for them, even if they're in a rush or they're somehow limited in their capacity. I mean, I know what it's like to go round a show with a screaming child, you know, I understand. But at the heart of the work, the heart of the work is definitely committed to this kind of deep dive experience.

Anj: [00:17:36] And I feel as though I have deliberately positioned the work as a rejection of this kind of fast paced impulse to consume, whether that be material things or whether that be images and information and painting. Because I feel as though this moment of consumption is increasingly consequential. I don't really feel we can avoid looking at that. So sometimes the work, it feels quite countercultural and it places quite radical demands on the viewer. If you want to really spend time with the work, these things will unfurl. But if you want to, if you're walking past super casually and you don't engage, then I think a lot of that content will probably pass you by. I sometimes find myself quite sort of suffocated by our cultural moment in the sort of fetishization of business, you know, the constant presentation of a new novelty or this quest for perfection. It can feel quite exhausting. It feels like a tyranny sometimes, you know, like the insistence that we're all living our best lives all the time. It's just not reality for most of us. So I really value taking time. I know it's a luxury and not everyone can do this, but taking time to just stop because I feel that is the place where we get clarity and we can turn things over in our minds and we can question things. This actually has always been part of my practice, but it's something that's come to the fore in the last few years, partly as a personal way that I've tried to navigate problems that I've had in my life with anxiety and depression. And a very close friend of mine is a Buddhist, and she has helped me understand the importance of meditation, even amidst a really busy life. And so I start before I start painting now I take 20 minutes just to physically sit in a chair, which goes against everything in my being, you know, like, I'm not one of those people that this comes very naturally to me and my practice is not hers. It's very simple. I just literally sit and stay in that space in the moment. But, you know, it's extraordinary the effects that has had on my capacity to think deeply. I have...I don' know, in a day where I have not managed to do that, I really notice the difference. So that in itself has been quite an important lesson for me, really.

Craig: [00:20:16] The the ability to get a viewer to slow down and take that much time to view your work is something I think is is really interesting. Over the summer, my family, we visited Crystal Bridges, which is in the middle of Arkansas, but it's just this gem and hours from other big cultural institutions. It was really interesting watching my family go through these exhibits in the one piece that they stood in front of for the most time was by a guest I had had on the podcast before named Sandow Birk. And he he makes it's a wide range of media from paintings to etchings. This was a particular piece was an etching about the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights and there is so much detail because he's created this enormous etching that's almost a horror vacui in terms of the amount of information that's being depicted in so many ways. And it was really an invitation that I saw my family accept in just stand there trying to take in all the different pieces of what he had laid out. And I feel like your work is similar, but different in that there's such fine detail and so much minutia that it's an invitation for folks to stop and look more closely and the more they look, the more they see. Does that make sense?

Anj: [00:21:57] You know, absolutely does make sense. And I think there's actually a real need for people to stop. And so when people are given a chance, I find that I hear a lot of feedback in that vein. Exactly as you've described. It feels like a relief and a pleasure. It feels like a pleasure just to sort of quiet that mental chatter that we all carry around in the shallow waters of our brains. Just just to stop engaging with that for a second and think about something more profound. It's very restorative, actually. And I think it's one of the amazing facilities that art has or has the potential to have, which is to to give us that place, that respite, you know, that place to recharge and and hopefully rejuvenate us. And I have definitely had emails from collectors or people that have lived with my work to say, "Oh my goodness, I've had this work hanging in my bedroom". There's one recently this guy sai, "I had this by my light switch in my bedroom for ten years, but I've just noticed this bird skull", you know, is like, is that the slow reveal? This is the antithesis of this very superficial reading of images. It's it's full, a very slow unfurl. And there's something deeply gratifying about that for a lot of people.

Craig: [00:23:16] I think I have no idea of this is of any influence on you at all. But when I view your work, there's something about that really reminds me of Hieronymus Bosch. Not only is this somebody who made work that was extremely fine detailed, and just an invitation to go back to over and over again and find these things that you didn't even notice in the work. But so much of it is allegory. Everything had an intent and was symbolic of something else, but for the casual viewer, it may just seem like, "oh, wow, that's that's a real oddity. Why in the world is that?" Right? I've heard you tell stories about visiting the Prado and having a bit of a moment at the Prado. And so I didn't know if Hieronymus Bosch was someone you've admired or thought of in terms of the same. Vein with your work.

Anj: [00:24:05] Absolutely. I love Bosch. I think the thing that I really enjoy about those paintings is the eccentricity, you know, but also his capacity to speak on lots of different levels. I'm not sure when the moment was, when the moment occurred, where everything became kind of simplified and there was some sort of singular meaning. I mean, not in everything, but there's a sort of trend towards being able to read a painting and understand its content in a few seconds, you know? Bosch is the antithesis of that. You know, like you say, there's an allegorical read. There is a literal read. There's a narrative that is very understandable. But then there's depths and complexities and psychologies at play that take very a lot of time to unravel. And I think to make a layered painting like that, you know, is a huge source of inspiration for me. Yeah, absolutely. But just the sheer humor as well in some of the darker, darker elements of the work. It's never just one thing, and I'm quite interested in painting when the idea exists, the idea of something could also contain its opposite. I'm very interested in that. And in Bosch, you know, you might have this terrifying scene of hell fire or something, but sort of right in the middle of that, there's this huge moments of humor and absurdity that can only be taken in a really light hearted way, but that somehow he articulates both at the same time. And I find that really fascinating.

Craig: [00:25:33] I believe I've heard you reference the term before. Is it dialetheism? Can you kind of give us a textbook definition of that? And what does that mean to you in your work? Because I think there's a little bit of that in your last response.

Anj: [00:25:48] Yeah, sure. So I'm really interested in philosophy, and particularly in contemporary philosophy and especially contemporary philosophy that is being made by female philosophers. It just seems that they in particular have been at the forefront of this idea of sort of non classical logics, the exploration of that of which Dialetheism is something. So it's notoriously slippery as a concept as a lot of philosophy is but you know, the essence of dialetheism can be explained in the thought experiment that's known as the liar's paradox. So the liar says that they are lying. But you know, if they are if they are telling the truth, then they're not a liar. And it is sort of this exactly what I was just saying about in terms of the Bosch example. It's something where the idea of something also contains its direct opposite. So the liar's paradox is a perfect example of that, because if the liar is not lying, then they're not a liar. But if they if they are lying, then they're telling, then they're telling the truth about who they are. So it's a little it's a little bit of a sort of intellectual gymnastics. But I really I just love this idea because what that actually unravels to...made in the work is that, you know, a lot of these bedrocks of Western thought actually become quite unstable. And that's a very exciting space, I think, because it just means room for progress and room for continuing a conversation in a different direction, perhaps with different voices at play in forming that direction.

Anj: [00:27:35] It's interesting. A slight aside, I've been looking recently at some English historical writers, but from a more marginalized, mystical tradition. So obviously, William Blake, I love this whole idea about, you know, the grain of sand containing the universe and within an hour eternity, you know, those kind of conundrums and paradoxes. But also I've become quite interested in Julian of Norwich, who was...which was a woman she's called Julian, which was a woman. She was a 15th century mystic and she made this amazing quote. She was saying, "To be a gardener", I'm paraphrasing here, but she said, "to be a gardener, you have to turn the earth upside down". And you know, this woman she chose to be walled up in her cell just to think philosophical thoughts. And some of her writings are quite out there. But I just think the idea of challenging truths that seem completely incontrovertible. Like, you know, the idea of time and logic and those kind of foundational ways in which we hang our perception of reality when we challenge those things is just very intriguing to me. You know, I was always the kid that was asking for a bedtime story. I'd always ask my dad, like, tell me about, you know, how a clock can be faster at the top of a mountain than at a bottom. You know, I was always that kid.

Craig: [00:29:10] I can relate to that. I remember asking my parents some really interesting questions about the universe and I'm like, okay, but where? Where are the edges of the universe? In my mind was like, Well, yes, but it's there's like there are limits, right? And I just go back to watching Fred Flintstone, like, what do you. Yeah, but, um, you know, that's the interesting thing about these sort of conversations with, with artists and in people in the art world is it's an opportunity for me to, to dig deeper. You and I are setting aside, you know, 30, 45 minutes to talk deeply about these sort of topics where in the rest of the world, people just don't seem to carve out that much time to talk about something beyond a couple of minutes of rhetoric. And we're all rushing. And, you know, there was the whole café society of the Impressionists sitting around for hours and hours and hours, you know, having these conversations or The Irascible or choose your period. And those sort of conversations have to be a little bit more intentional these days. Right? And this sort of format lends itself to deeper conversations and artist talks and and what have you. But do you have a circle of of artists that you're able to to have deeper conversations with?

Anj: [00:30:34] Yes, I do, actually. Absolutely. Quite a small circle. But people that I feel I can sort of speak and talk about anything, I think that is really important. But I also I can really relate to what you're saying. And I'm the first generation of my family to have gone on to university. And and many previous generations of my family would love to have been artists. You know, looking back at the things we have of previous generations in my parents home, they were they were making things. There's no way they could have gone to art school. You know, it's a completely so I really I'm very grateful for this life that I'm living. And I think it is part of the artist's responsibility to if you have the luxury of this kind of mental space in order to think about these things, to to then make that happen for other people, you know, so the viewer can inherit the time that I've thought, looking and thinking and discussing with friends all of the amount of weeks or months that might have gone into making a painting and thinking about things deeply. The viewer could then have all of that and receive all of that, but within perhaps a few minutes of just looking at a work, and I see that as quite an important aspect of what I do.

Anj: [00:31:50] And it's interesting to me sometimes I feel as though the work, the word dark or the idea that my paintings are dark gets out there and I find it irritating because actually, what does that mean? It means it's one of those one of those words that means absolutely nothing. It's not unspecific. But I actually feel as though within I suppose I do understand because the paintings are dealing with this instability and the moment that we live in, it's not all rainbows and flowers and the work reflects that. But at the same time, you know, I believe because I'm thinking about these things and enjoying philosophy, I think there's a note I'd be very surprised if you couldn't find a note of sort of hopefulness and a sort of celebration of human ingenuity and agency at play in every single painting of mine. So I always find it a bit bewildering when that label gets put on it.

Craig: [00:32:47] And no other point in history have we come to a point where people are trying to make everything binary. Political discourse is either you're either on this side or this side, and there's this whole huge territory in the middle where people just don't want to discuss or traverse. And so people like to I think in our day and age, put things in boxes, put things in silos, categorize. Sometimes people, for example, want to call your work surrealist, but that's not really a great label for what you do. Can you kind of talk about the frustration with people wanting to try to categorize your work instead of taking it for just what it is?

Anj: [00:33:38] I think that's such a great question. So before I started attending art school, I'd always been taught that the history of contemporary art, history of art, I should say, started with the Greco-Roman period, you know, and then in this very Eurocentric Western male trajectory came up until the present day. And there were obviously so many exclusions at play there. But obviously, I think the refutation of that is now mainstream and that's now seen for the nonsense that it that it was. But somehow I feel as though there's a hangover from that way of thinking, that really literal linear way of thinking. And it's to do with trying to quantify artificially in trying to put in boxes exactly as you say. I feel as though that can be deeply inappropriate sometimes. Actually, I made a painting in 2021 and it's called "Landscape with Deep Void". And there are some birds of paradise in that in that work. And I don't know whether you've heard the story, but back in in the 19th century, when these specimens were delivered to the Victorian ornithologists, the Royal Society or whatever, they were misunderstood because they're truly extraordinary. These birds, they have some of them have a brow plume that's 30 centimeters long and these birds are tiny, you know, they're like a little half inch and they've got this extraordinary plumage.

Anj: [00:35:11] And it just blew the minds of these experts because they couldn't get their heads around the fact that nature is as fabulous as it is. And so they were miscategorized, or in particular these birds that are in the painting where it was concluded that they were fakes, they were forgeries. It just didn't fit into the system. It didn't fit into the classification system. And I just really love that story because I just think it really epitomizes, you know, the sort of futility of that approach. I understand, of course, that we need to have ways of talking about something as broad as art and painting. You have to have some kind of I get that. And I actually don't mind if people call the work surrealist or conceptual or whatever, as long as it's it's used thoughtfully and there's a context and that's fine. I think my frustration happens when these are sort of reached for very easily without much thought and an unthinking way, because obviously, you know, the surrealists hated women, we weren't allowed to join. So there's always...that always feels a bit clunky somehow, you know, it's just. The surrealist movement is something that I'm very interested in. It's got very resonant legacies to this day, and I've had a lot of painters that I really admire, like Christina Quarles has been speaking about that recently.

Anj: [00:36:32] Hugely interesting in terms of meaning in flux and in sort of identities being fluid. And I think that's really valid and that's wonderful and absolutely if that is something that...if that's the way that the work is seen then that's fabulous. But, you know, back in 2017, I made a BBC Radio 4 documentary on Eileen Agar, who was always called a surrealist and always fought the...that boxing in. And I feel as though that term is often put on the work of women, because sometimes we are approaching subject matter in a more oblique way that does not necessarily equate to surrealism. So I think that it sometimes feels like it's a short circuiting if you're trying to hold work to some sort of prior male standard, when, you know, to try and contextualize work within a structure that excluded it, it doesn't really always feel that makes the most sense. It's somehow stifling. I remember hearing the artist Anna Maria Maiolino speak in London at the White Chapel a few years ago now. And she was so eloquent on this, and she coined the term I mean, she referred to this sort of boxing in of work, but sort of contextualizing it within an old way of thinking rather than a deep engagement with what she was speaking about. And she said she called it pseudomorphism.

Anj: [00:38:11] And she was describing how people. There was one moment in her career where people were looking at her work through the lens of Jackson Pollock. And obviously there's nothing relevant about Jackson Pollock's work in terms of referencing her own practice. I mean, yes, you can see superficially some of her work was, you know, clay, squiggly, you know, formations, and you can see his gestures. But that's just that's just not acceptable rigorous response to her practice, which was very serious and very profound and fabulous. It still is. So, you know, I just sort of feel. I feel that...I felt that she expressed that so eloquently. And I feel as though you can't expect when you're inviting new voices to the table, which is starting to happen now, you can't expect the life experiences that those voices are going to speak about to be articulated in the old ways, that doesn't make any sense. So I think we have to be open to hearing from a greatly diverse section of people and be prepared to be open minded as to how those things might be expressed and very careful about how we contextualize and relate to those things rather than trying to pin them in a canon that previously excluded them. You know, it's just something interesting to think about.

Craig: [00:39:31] Anj, you currently have an exhibit at the perimeter in London "Where the Mountain Hare has Lain". Can you tell us a little about what people can expect to see if if they're able to make it out to The Perimeter?

Anj: [00:39:44] Yes, that's right. So the perimeter is a gorgeous space. It's near the British Museum and it's on until the 17th of December. So there's and it's free of charge. So there's an opportunity for anyone in London to see this exhibition. And normally at this point, just before show opens, I'm just a bundle of neurotic energy because, you know, even though I've been doing this for over two decades, it's still really odd to put your most intimate thoughts out into the world. It's not very comfortable. But in this instance, I just feel hugely enthusiastic and thrilled about this exhibition because it's been curated by someone that I know has done a deep dive into the work who's been very sensitive and respectful. Alex Petalas, who has the space, he's curated a very personal interpretation of my work and I don't particularly want to spoil it. I'm sure images will emerge on social media, but he has not come up with the usual white cube. He has a few surprises in store with his interpretation of the works. And yeah, I'm just really thrilled to be opening that. There's a publication that's accompanying it and for the first time I've written on my painting, which I thought was an impossibility, but I have actually written a short piece on my painting, so I hope that might help people as well.

Craig: [00:41:09] When I read recently about the show that's coming up, it's the first time I had seen an institution talk about how they had worked alongside a spatial designer to transform the space. So it makes me very curious what they have in store for creating a world to receive your work in. And so I imagine some of that is intended to be a surprise, so I won't delve too much deeper there unless there is some some kernel that you can share about about that process.

Anj: [00:41:48] Yeah, sure. So, yeah, Alex has worked with Robert Storey, who's an amazing spatial interior designer and. The essence of the exhibition is about giving people the invitation to slow down. And that's reflected in the environment that's created there for people to enjoy the work. And obviously, as the artist, there's sort of a twofold that you want people to enjoy the pleasure of slowing down and having a bit of respite. But also, of course, I'm always thinking about you want the perfect space for the works to be absorbed in. You want people to be able to see as much detail and with as much clarity as possible what's going on in the paintings. And I think both of those things have been achieved by this exhibition, so I'm seriously thrilled about it. And I should mention that Yates Norton's written in the catalog a really touching and special text as well. So I'm very thrilled about the whole thing, to be honest.

Craig: [00:42:51] Well, Anj, I really appreciate you taking time out to talk deeply about your work, which is incredibly thoughtful. And I just really appreciate you being willing to to sit down and have a conversation with me today.

Anj: [00:43:10] Oh, it's been such a pleasure. Thank you, Craig. Thanks for your questions.

Craig: [00:43:17] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to Art Sense. You can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate the show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. And if you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read the transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to and click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Thanks for listening.

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