Anne Carney Raines was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020 with her work Far Out. Reality and materiality are called into question as the wood grained floorboards of this cabin-like interior disappear beneath a painted curtain. Here, Anne Carney talks about how her experience as a scenic painter informs her practice now, her favourite colour for glazing and the need to have resilience as an artist in these times.
Above image: Laundry Day, 2020, Anne Carney Raines, Oil on mount board, 15 x 13 cm | 5.9 x 5.1 in.
Clare: Can you tell us about your artistic background/education?
Anne Carney: My mum is an artist and so she encouraged my sister and I to be creative from a very young age. Painting was always my favourite medium from childhood onwards. I went on to receive my BFA in painting with a minor in Art History from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2014. In 2019 I moved to London where I am currently studying as a MA candidate in the Royal College of Art painting program.
Clare: Where does a painting begin for you? Can you take us through your process?
Anne Carney: I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and collecting images which usually generates an idea I want to see put together. I almost always begin with at least one coloured pencil sketch on paper. I still have my coloured pencil set from when I was about 16. Having a large selection of colours is especially important when I want to experiment and get out of my comfort zone with the palette. After at least one sketch I begin transferring that idea onto a larger surface with paint. I do tend to plan out the paintings but I always make sure to leave room for changes. I draw a loose outline with coloured pencil on the canvas and then I go in with thin layers of oil paint. The painting surface is really important to me. I like to work on a hard and smooth surface so wood panel is ideal. When I paint on a larger scale I find that linen is best paired with multiple layers of gesso and moulding paste.
Clare: Can you tell us about your time painting scenic painting? How was it working on such a large scale? What were the challenges? What was your most memorable experience doing this work?
Anne Carney: I worked as a scenic painter in Nashville, TN before moving to London in 2019. We painted sets for Comicon, escape rooms, roadshows etc. and the biggest challenge was time. I had to learn how to paint efficiently and without precision which ended up being useful in my studio practice. We worked in a large warehouse where the sets were built and taken down for transport. Seeing them set up inside another space with their illusions unable to fully convince affected how I think about the spaces in my paintings now. In general, it was a memorable experience to see how quickly you can make a convincing surface or texture. Painting doesn’t always have to be so laboured to be convincing which is an important lesson for me to take into my studio.
Clare: Can you tell us more about your exploration of directional thinking and how this relates to your work?
Anne Carney: I like my work to embrace the grey areas that make up our current culture and society. There is a lot of theatre going on in our everyday lives. Political theatre, social media, and fake news just to name a few. We have to decide what to trust, when to pull back the curtain, and which stories we want to keep. In my paintings I like to leave room for the viewer to decide what’s going on and if it’s relevant to them. I like the idea of creating a space with some emotional distance where the figures reside in the walls rather than in the space. I am interested in creating an atmosphere or a backdrop for a narration rather than the story in its entirety.
Clare: What can you tell us about the titles of your paintings?
Anne Carney: For this work, I used a lot of words or phrases from books I was reading that influenced my thinking in some way. In my current work I am using titles to try and connect the paintings within the world they exist in. I see them as existing within a maze of infinite rooms and shallow spaces. The titles can be a connecting point between the viewer and my knowledge of the environment within the painting. Just like in the scenic warehouse; you might see a carefully cropped portion of the set we built but I know the space around it and what is happening there.
Clare: What can you tell us about your colour choices and how do you set up your palette?
Anne Carney: Lately, I’ve been switching up my palette with each painting or series of paintings. I like to limit myself to four colours plus Titanium-Zinc White. I find that limiting the palette allows me to be more intentional with the colour choices. This way you can mix a wide range of colours while keeping a sense of cohesion in the work. Currently, I am enjoying Quinacridone Magenta, Indian Yellow, and Cadmium Scarlet. Quinacridone Magenta is particularly lovely as a glaze. Right now I’m waiting on a Bright Yellow-Green to arrive which will be a fun experiment since I rarely use green out of a tube.
Clare: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Anne Carney: I am particular about my brushes as most painters are. I like scruffy hog hair flats for the beginning layers of the painting and then I move to more detailed brushes if I need them. My favourite tool is my badger hair fan brush which I use to seamlessly blend the paint in certain areas. This is especially helpful when painting a curtain or mural within the work because it helps create a sense of flatness. Aside from brushes I have to say my glass palette and palette knife are also essential!
Clare: How has the lockdown of the last few months affected your practice?
Anne Carney: The lockdown has been pretty tough to navigate especially since It’s fallen directly in the middle of my MA course. I made a series of very small paintings at my kitchen table which did open up some new possibilities for me when I was finally able to move back into a slightly larger space with some peers recently. As artists, we have to be resilient and it’s just about trying to be creative and figure out new modes of working which can lead to exciting things.
Clare: What are your art influences? Who are your favourite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Anne Carney: I am influenced by Sienese paintings from artists like Duccio and Giovanni di Paolo whose work I can see in the National Gallery. The way they painted perspective and an abundance of passages, doorways, and windows are wonderful and still feels very fresh. I love Valazquez paintings like The Spinners and Las Meninas where he played with illusions of depth and paintings within paintings. Some contemporary artists I look at are Matthias Weischer, Mamma Andersson, Anne Hardy, and Mickalene Thomas. They all explore interior spaces in different and exciting ways. I’ve also been enjoying David Hockney’s stage designs for The Magic Flute and A Rake’s Progress.
Clare: What makes a good day in the studio for you?
Anne Carney: A good day in the studio starts early in the day with some reading and writing followed by sketching and long stretches of focussed painting. I like to work on more than one painting that relates to each other at a time so I can switch between them as needed. Ideally, the day would include some helpful critique and discussion with my lovely studio mates Richard Burton and Beth Hadfield. And 30-minute walk home is the perfect time to reflect on the day and to think about goals for tomorrow.
Clare: Can you tell us where we can see more of your work online or in the flesh?
Anne Carney: I am delighted to have been chosen for New Contemporaries 2020. The show has been pushed back a few times due to COVID-19 but hopefully, it will go ahead at the South London Gallery from 13th January – 7 March. I am also hoping the Royal College of Art will provide us space for our degree show in the Spring. You can find images of my current work on my website at annecarneyraines.com and my Instagram @annecarneyraines for more process-driven images.