Pauline Rignall: landscape and still life artist

In the 70s and 80s a new realism was dawning in the arts world. In drama we had Pinter and Stoppard; on screen there was A Clockwork Orange; Martin Amis and Ian McEwan were emerging authors and artists such as Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff were rejecting minimalism for more figurative, emotional work.

As a young art student Pauline Rignall existed on the fringes of probably one of the most brilliantly creative scenes of the last century.

It was while she was taking life drawing classes at Camden Arts Centre that it was suggested she might want to sit for Leon Kossoff, and so started a long relationship during which she become a favourite muse.

Pauline was also privileged to have been able to have life drawing lessons herself from the celebrated artist Sargy Mann, who had at one time lived at the London mansion of author Kingsley Amis, which was always full of visiting writers, painters and inventors.

“Working with Leon had a big impact on me,” says Pauline with a wistful look.

“It was an amazing studio the floor was thick with paint – as were his shoes. All I had to do was sit still. It was considered a great thing to do if you wanted to be a life drawing teacher and that is what I wanted to do then,” she explained.

“At first it seemed hard to sit still for so long but then you start to enjoy it and actually move into a meditative state. I learned such a lot working with him for those long periods – day and night.

“He taught me that you had to just keep going with the work – putting the paint on and scraping it off, and that you have to internalise your subject and then it just comes out in the painting process.

“My lessons with Sargy also had a huge influence on what I do now. Life drawing is the background to the rest of your work. It’s a bit like warming up to what you are actually going to paint. He taught me the process of looking and seeing.”

Pauline, who now lives at Eyam, was brought up in Battersea and says that an uncaring stepmother who took away her dolls at an early age was probably the catalyst for her artistic temperament – although she admits with a wry smile that the fact her father was a wildlife artist probably had a bit to do with it as well.

“My stepmother decided I was too old for dolls when I was still a small child so instead of playing with them I drew out my fantasies and created my own world. I guess I will have inherited something from my father though, whose paintings of birds and flowers made a huge impression on me at the time.

After completing her foundation course in art at Hammersmith the young Pauline travelled, before embarking on a Scientific Illustration Course at Hornsey College of Art.

“I am not really sure why I chose it but I was a bit lost at the time and because my father was a wildlife artist it seemed like a good idea. As it happens it actually kept me sane because it was very disciplined and organised. It was totally different from studying fine art where you could do whatever you wanted.

Pauline’s work with Kossoff ended when she realised she no longer had the emotional energy to carry on and wanted to concentrate more on her own work and spend more time with her husband and son.

“It was very sad, but over the years we have kept in touch,” she said, showing me books about his work from the vast collection of art books in her cottage.

Twenty years ago she finally studied for a fine art degree at Sheffield Hallam and has spent several years teaching art at Sheffield College and life drawing classes at the Mappin Art Gallery in the city.

Now, though, she is putting all her energies into to her own painting and getting her name known a bit more.

It is obviously paying off as she has work at The Derwent Gallery at Grindleford, St John Street Gallery, Ashbourne, Tarpey Gallery in Castle Donington, River’s Edge Gallery at Bamford, which currently has an exhibition of her work and The Bessemer in Sheffield.

“I was a bit reclusive and unable to assert myself but I have been working really hard at my art work for a while now, and I am pleased with the response I am getting to it,” she said honestly.

“For me it is all about memory and imagination whether it is landscape or still life. My paintings are not a literal representation of reality – more a flux between dream images and the waking world. I am enjoying the direction they are going in now and I have a positive feel about this year.”

For more details about her work go to http://www.paulinerignall.com

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