First year BA Painting student Maura Polano is the 2018 recipient of the highly prestigious Worshipful Company of Painters-Stainers’ Bursary. As the fifth oldest of the 110 Livery Companies in the city of London, The Painter-Stainers’ Company has a rich history of supporting arts charities and educational institutions.
We spoke to Maura about her reaction to winning the bursary, her developing painting practice and what she has enjoyed most about the BA Painting course so far.
Can you talk a bit about winning the Worshipful Company of Painters-Stainers’ Bursary?
I didn’t have to apply for the bursary, so it actually made winning extra special and totally unexpected. When you apply for a competition, you think ‘there’s a slim chance I might win this’. But as my work was chosen to be shortlisted by the tutors it was a nice surprise. There were three other students whose work was shortlisted, and then the people from the Worshipful Company of Painters-Stainers’ made the final decision.
I will spend the bursary money on art supplies, and will maybe use it to help with the college tuition fees. Some paints and pigments are really expensive, so I wouldn’t normally buy them. It’s great that I’ve won this bursary as now I can experiment with diverse materials without having to worry too much about the cost.
Can you describe your painting practice?
It’s difficult for me to talk about my practice at this stage, as I only just finished my first year and I am not entirely sure in which direction I’m heading. At present, I’m really interested in philosophy and psychology. I’ve been inspired by Sigmund Freud and his ideas, and certain philosophical concepts have really inspired me also. My work is figurative and I try to give it some psychological underpinnings and inject some feeling into the painting.
I admire the work of painter Paula Rego a lot, and like her I aspire to add a storyline to my paintings. I think that is something that is new for my practice this year, adding story to my work and being inspired by stories. Before this year, I created more impressionist work, painting only what I observed. Now, I’m focusing more on storyline and theatrical staging. Before I start a painting, I make little models and shine a light on them to see how the shadows form. I like to actively construct the scenes and the narrative myself, rather than passively copy an image.
Who are some of your artistic influences?
I already mentioned my interest in Paula Rego. I really like the psychological disquiet in her work. I like Edward Hopper and Gregory Crewdson for much the same reason. I also really like the work and technical ability of Titian, Goya, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet… the standard ones!
What have you enjoyed most about the BA Painting course so far?
I enjoy the artistic freedom and it is really inspirational to be surrounded by so many creative people. My hometown in the Netherlands is much smaller and there aren’t quite as many exhibitions as there are here in London. I really enjoy having access to all London’s resources.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to study at Wimbledon?
Wimbledon has a great reputation as a university, so that was an important factor. I was also quite disappointed with the art colleges in The Netherlands. There seemed to be no interest at all in the technique of painting, and there was no specific pathway for painting either. I felt most Fine Art teachers were more interested in sculpture or print media, so they didn’t have much knowledge about painting. I always hoped to find a bit more support and enthusiasm for painting, which is why I chose Wimbledon.
How has your practice changed and developed throughout your first year?
I think the major change from when I first started the course is that I now really like to construct the scenes in my work. At my previous school a lot of the learning was theoretical, and it made me feel like my creativity was somewhat oppressed. I am in a much more creative environment now and that is really helping me to come up with better ideas. I have more time to think about and reflect on my work, so I can focus more on the story and emotion I want to put into my paintings. I am looking forward to developing my work further and experimenting more in the second year.