An interview with Young Masters Artist Aileen McEwen
Visual Artist Aileen McEwan gives us an insight into her inspiration and thoughts about her future.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
I am interested in cultural definitions of beauty, taste, desire and value, focusing on the play between individuality and the wider regulative forces of society. The work takes the form of jewel-like paintings that function as totems of aspiration in their own right. With a focus on materiality of space, narrative and nostalgia, the environments and objects depicted often appear staged or false.
I source ubiquitous and familiar images of aspiration from popular media and the history of painting. My work is informed by an awareness of my position as a young female artist as regards femininity, creation and cultural expectation.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
The popular belief has been than a genuine interest in traditional technical painting skill and the work of the old masters is something to be ashamed of. By grounding the project in contemporary art practice, however, it is possible to walk the razor edge of nostalgia without being saccharine or stale. The project seems to herald the change in thinking; that we can learn from the past but play with it.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
John Singer Sargent and Edouard Vuillard are both very important to my practice but I also I love artists like Moya Flannigan, Lisa Yuskavage and Jenny Saville. I tend to gravitate towards female artists whose work is figurative, beautiful but slightly sinister. I really admire their control of paint, their focus on mark making and use of colour.
Can you tell us something about your background?
My extended family is pretty creative, they include several artists and gallery owners. My parents have always encouraged me to be creative. As a child I was always presenting my mum with fantastical things made from egg boxes and old toilet roll tubes.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I have wanted to create things for as long as I can remember. When I was five, we were asked in primary school to paint a copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Mine was held up in front of the class and the teacher asked had I ever considered being an artist. I thought it sounded like a good idea.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I think I would have studied psychology or become a counsellor. I am very interested in unpicking how people work.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
Being shortlisted for part of the Saatchi New Sensations 2012. It was incredibly flattering and encouraging to have been chosen. I Graduated from Glasgow School of Art last July and it felt very much like leaving the protective bubble of the studio. It was a daunting prospect and it would be very easy to stop working, but having been selected has given me a confidence boost and spurred me on to continue to create.
What are your plans for the future?
I am completing my first year in practice, outside art school and I hope to continue creating and exhibiting. I also hope to do a Masters in the near future.