Olympics-themed art exhibitions are unsurprisingly de rigeur right now. DegreeArt has joined in and is displaying works that show how the Olympics has inspired up and coming artists.
Twelve artists have created 20 portraits of Team GB members, including the likes of Andy Murray and Christine Ohuruogu. Several impressive young artists are on show, including works by Victoria Heald and Abigail Box.
Patrick Simkins (PS) and Rebecca Molloy (RM) are two other talented artists who feature in this show, and were also part of the Repre collective exhibition earlier this year. We spoke to both of them before the exhibition to get their views on painting Olympians.
As an artist, what significance does the Olympics hold for you?
RM: You become really aware that this is a significant period of time in your country’s history and to be a part of it is very important. I’m also drawn to the fact that the Games aren’t just for sport enthusiasts or athletes, that in fact they reach a much wider audience. My hope is that the 20:12 show will demonstrate not just athletes and sport but a more universal understanding of what is to be a person that has power, strength and determination.
PS: I don’t think people realise that sport and art are as close as they really are. As far as I’m concerned, sport is another expression of human culture, just as art is. Both are expressions of self-worth, self-confidence and passion. Working as a Storyteller for the Olympics, I have had the chance to meet and convey the ideas and beliefs of the athlete in an alternative media. The way that the athletes have spoken about their dreams, I feel like the drive and passion they have for their sport, is similar to that which I have for my work.
Is there a different approach to painting an Olympic athlete as to any other subject?
RM: Initially I wanted to paint about the surface of the skin, the detail, colour, texture and line. I found that over time after experimenting with various ideas they became very ‘portraity’. So, maybe the sense that the paintings were of public figures was in the back of my mind. Generally, I try to avoid going down the portrait route, as I think more dynamic and interesting things can be explored through experimental compositions.
PS: I have embarked on my first figurative pieces and it has certainly been a challenge. One I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, though, and ultimately I think has been quite successful. To have them in a national newspaper is pretty good isn’t it! I’ve always felt my style would suit the them. I enjoy capturing movement with dynamic streaks of paint. Balancing these with achieving a likeness has been tricky, but it’s something I am going to continue experimenting with.
As you’ve both worked together on other shows, is there a friendly rivalry between the two of you?
RM: I think there’s rivalry between most artists. Seeing other people’s achievements can be a great motivator and our ambitions often change in line with the benchmarks that others set. In mine and Patrick’s case, our work is quite different, so there is an element of distance between us. I can look back from afar and really admire and appreciate what he’s doing, so it actually becomes very inspiring and exciting. I think this show will really highlight our different approaches to a very similar subject matter!
PS: Rebecca is a tremendous artist, one I admire so much, and having studied with her, it’s great that I’ve seen how her work has changed and progressed. As an artist, you know you like the work when you go right up close to a piece to see the intricacies of the brushwork. Becca’s is one I am always attracted to first when entering a room. Our work certainly differs somewhat as well, so there can’t really be a rivalry, I just appreciate showing and working with such a talented artist.
See also this excellent YouTube video of how Patrick created his Brownlee brothers piece.
20:12 is on at DegreeArt, 12a Vyner Street, E2 9DG until 26 September. Entrance is free.