Mary West – one of Chiswick’s up and coming artists

Image above: Mary West at her studio in Grove Park

Painting furiously to meet a constant stream of commissions for galleries and online clients

“For the past couple of years things have been going really well” says Mary West, with an endearing hint of surprise in her voice.

She is a classically trained artist, who grew up in Chiswick, went to Chiswick School and went on to study art at the Slade school of art in London. For those who remember them, she was inspired by art teachers David Kereszteny-Lewis and Gaye Deveney and photography teacher John Miller.

After four years at the Slade, Mary painted while teaching at Orchard School House, not really making a living out of her art until she teamed up with another artist, Clara Wilkinson, to make murals.

Living Wall Murals provide ‘bespoke interiors and exteriors’, such as this one they painted for the Green Man Lane estate in Ealing:

Image above: Living Wall Murals creation for the Green Man Lane estate in Ealing

Instagram success

There are quite a few houses in Chiswick which boast Living Wall Murals. Clara now runs the business on her own as Mary has found she has become too busy with her own studio work to do both.

When we spoke, she was involved in a new show at the Saatchi Gallery – The Way of All Flesh – and was about to take part in a show at Cromwell Place in South Kensington curated by Devina Barber and Laura Lopes – Elsewhere.

Image above: ‘The Light Between’; Mary West

She credits her success to Instagram.

“Instagram has totally changed the art world”, she says. “It’s less cliquey, and it enables artists to swap ideas.

“I had an artist from Nova Scotia contact me to say they were interested in my practice. I have a lot of artists who follow me, and I find it a warm, generous and supportive place to share ideas. You find your people.

“I am not a natural salesperson and I find it has allowed me to get my work out.”

Mary has recently had work in a gallery in Miami, the Rosenbaum Contemporary gallery, who contacted her through Instagram.

“I put up pieces a couple of times a week”

Her studio, off the kitchen of her flat in Grove Park, is evidence of how prolific she is, with the latest paintings stacked around the walls ready to go off to the next gallery. She has a partnership with the Online Gallery, which gives her a regular stream of commissions. She is also preparing for the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead in May.

 

Image above: Paintings in Mary’s studio in Grove Park

“I do love a drip”

Mary paints every day and finds the river a great inspiration. Her paintings are mainly abstract landscapes.

“I use a wash of oil on the canvas.”

The colours change with the seasons.

“I use Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber for the wintry ones. I paint quickly and intuitively. I just start to put marks on the canvas and the images start to paint themselves.”

She quotes Frank Auerbach, still painting in his 90s.

“His paintings always surprise him, he says. That’s exactly how I feel.”

Images above: Promotion for Mary’s recent shows

The question I always have is how artists know when a painting is finished.

“I have to be careful about stopping” she says, otherwise it just turns into a muddy mess! I’ve got better at knowing when to stop. I know when it’s finished because I’ve stopped fixating on one particular area and see it as a whole.”

Many of her paintings have drips in them. “I do love a drip” she says, laughing. “I think it’s exciting that the paint goes where it wants to. I enjoyed teaching little children at Orchard House because they were so uninhibited.”

She has had a client recently who commissioned a painting, but asked rather hesitantly if there could be no drips.

“I totally get that people think it could have been done by a five-year-old when there are drips,” she says, totally unconcerned.

People in Chiswick will be able to see Mary’s work on display this summer in the neighbourhood, as part of Artists At Home open studios, 14 – 16 June.

Mary shares a studio with Celia Martine Pickering, whose work is currently on show at the Clayton hotel Chiswick as part of The Chiswick Calendar’s own art exhibition.

READ ALSO: The Chiswick Calendar’s Spring art exhibition

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