Eve McGlynn’s abstract expressive paintings first caught our eye during her highly successful Graduate show (DJCAD ’20). And you may have spotted her work featuring in our coveted annual Best of Scottish Art School Show last year. Eve recently joined us to talk about Leith (her current home-town), late night painting, and of course, lockdown. Read on to learn about her artistic process, inspiration, the meaning in her work and what she will be getting up to throughout 2021.
Originally interested in drawing and animation, it was only when Eve began a portfolio preparation course at the Tramway Visual Arts Studio in Glasgow that she first considered painting seriously.
“I really didn’t want to go into painting, definitely not abstract painting.”
Famous last words! This shift has worked out exceptionally well for Eve. She is currently one of only a few selected Graduate Artist in Residence at Leith School of Art, and she was the recipient of the RSA John Kinross Scholarship, giving her the opportunity to head to Florence for up to three months to research and develop her practice.
With the ongoing lockdown restrictions, Eve’s Florence travel plans are temporarily on hold. Speaking on the subject of Covid 19 and lockdown, it’s clear that it has impacted her practice in a pretty major way.
“Lockdown affected not just my own practice, but the practice of everyone I know in really different ways. Some thrived under the circumstances, whereas others – myself included – struggled with adapting to not having a studio or facilities to make boards or canvases. I think some people really benefit from that confined way of working; locking yourself away for days at a time, but I love taking inspiration from such a wide variety of sources that I didn’t really find myself being as creatively stimulated as I’d have hoped.”
But the experience hasn’t been all bad.
“During lockdown I didn’t have space to paint in and I found my practice becoming more drawing-based as a result. Now that I have studio access again, those sketchbooks of lockdown drawings have become valuable, and are feeding into the work I’m making at the moment.”
These sketchbooks play an important role in Eve’s complex creative process, which for the past three years has been an exploration of Giotto’s Scenes of the Life of the Virgin – a series of frescoes painted by the Italian Master painter in the 14th Century. She is fascinated by the the symbolism imbued in the iconography [at the time of Giotto’s paintings].
“The majority of the population was illiterate so it meant that the teachings of Christ, which the Church were wanting to spread, had to be done either verbally or visually, everything meant something. And it’s something that we can’t do anymore, we don’t have to do. Information is just so readily available… decoding the seemingly mundane and how it tells a story is what i’m really interested in.”
Eve starts by focussing on one fresco and making small A5 drawings. She’ll draw certain symbolic features, such as a hand or a basin. This sometimes very literal drawing will be “painted over, abstracted, deconstructed, reconstructed.” How long this process takes depends on the piece, but for the most part it is a time consuming process.
“Even when I leave the studio i’m not finished. I always take my work home in images. I’ll be watching the telly, having a photo on my phone and be drawing over it on photoshop to try and figure out what I’m going to do. I can’t get it out of my head if it looks wrong. I can’t leave the studio. Even if it’s not completely finished, it has to have a balance to it. I have to be able to be happy with someone seeing it the next day.”
Stylistically, Eve is influenced by contemporary painters like Amy Sillman and Milton Avery. She’s particularly drawn to the colour relationships found in Avery’s work, often taking murky greens and muted tones and contrasting them with bright, artificial colours.
“I’ll use artificial colours straight from the tube that look modern and contemporary, they’re in no way related to what I’m studying but just little flashes of them on top of those really muted laboured colours.”
So what’s next for Eve? At the moment, she’s working at a far larger scale, constructing six by four foot canvasses, pushing herself paint outside her normal comfort zones of size and proportion.
“It’s a really different way of working. I was really used to working in squares. So there is painting within the painting because it’s just so big. It’s something to get used to and I have really enjoyed it but… you do have to utilise blank space a lot more because if there is so much information in there it can be maybe too overwhelming in a way. Working with blank space and knowing to leave things out rather than put loads in has been the struggle.”
Thank you to Eve for taking the time to speak to us and letting us discover a little bit more about her practice and artwork. You can view all of Eve’s here. And make sure to look for the hidden symbolism.