A sense of serenity
23.09.21 Interview by Hannah Valentine

A sense of serenity

In her acrylic paintings and paper collages, artist Anna Mac creates a minimalist tranquillity. With subtle shadows and highlights, her attention to shape and colour inspires dreamy contemplation.
23.09.21 Interview by Hannah Valentine

Each of Anna Mac’s minimalist works is a conversation in colour, with carefully selected shades and a gentle emphasis on light and shadow. In her acrylic paintings, geometric experimentations, and paper collages, Anna creates a sense of calm composure – producing work free from unnecessary detail, where the world can instead be viewed in a balance of colour and shape.

Inspired by the surroundings of her home in the Suffolk countryside, Anna portrays the buildings and nature in a manner that is delicate and yet striking. A far cry from her alma mater, the London Metropolitan School of Art, Architecture and Design (formerly The Sir John Cass School of Art), she finds spending time in the countryside to be an important part of her process. This natural environment not only provides the inspiration behind many of the shapes and colours that make up her work, but also allows for the long bike rides which let that inspiration sink in and ideas to take shape.

We talk to Anna about self-exploration, her love of simple aesthetics, and her never-ending quest to find the perfect colour combination.

Anna Mac
"I’m inspired by lines and shapes in buildings, structures, and objects. Looking at my surroundings, I see the image broken down into blocks of colour, so that a hedge or gate becomes a simple rectangle."

Can you talk us through your creative process and routines?
My creative routines change frequently. Right now, I start by making quick sketches; simple lines and shapes inspired by photographs I’ve taken or what is around me. Often, I'll repeat these shapes over and over, making small changes until a composition emerges that I feel is working. Then I move onto my iPad where I’ll fine-tune the idea and add colour. Using the iPad at this point allows me to explore different colours so that I don't waste paint whilst experimenting. Once I’m happy I’ll swatch those chosen colours. Sometimes they don't work as well on the canvas as they did on the screen, and I’ll change it up. I work primarily with acrylic paint, which suits my process as I like to put several layers down to create a flat bold colour, so I need the paint to dry quickly.

When working I need solitude and to be consumed by whatever I am working on. I’ll constantly take photos during the process so I can view them when I am back at home, scrutinising the parts that don't work and obsessing over the parts I love.

You live on the Suffolk coast, in the east of England. How do your surroundings inspire you?
I am drawn to simple aesthetics. I’m inspired by lines and shapes in buildings, structures, and objects. Looking at my surroundings, I see the image broken down into blocks of colour, so that a hedge or gate becomes a simple rectangle. I really enjoy exploring different areas of Suffolk on my bike; the journey helps all the inspiring imagery marinate in my brain!

We saw that you've got a display of colour swatches up on your studio wall. What role do they play in your process?
The swatches are the result of constantly mixing and testing paint colours. I choose my colours through a lot of experimentation, and I like to see how they look when they dry and the light hits them. I am also always inspired by the world around me; if I see a great colour somewhere I’ll take a photo and transfer it to my iPad so that I can mix as similar a colour as possible.

Anna Mac
"It means so much to me when people describe my work as peaceful; the world can be so hectic and intense, so to be able to create art that can give people that sense of calm is an amazing feeling."

How do your more abstract and geometrical works relate to your paintings of houses and scenery?
They are all intrinsically linked; each feeds into the next. Fundamentally my work is about simple blocks of colour that slot together. The more geometrical works often stem from colours used in my other paintings. My colour swatch display plays an important role here too—for me it’s not just about the colour, it is about their location in relation to one another. Finding that perfect balance in a never-ending experiment.

Can you tell us about your work 'Me, Myself and I’ [below], which featured recently as part of the group exhibition 'HERE’ at The Art Station in Suffolk...
This piece shows a pink armchair in a yellow room. It faces the walls where mirrors reflect its image. The painting is from a body of work I've been developing during the pandemic; a surreal and difficult period of time where I think we have all been exploring who we are as individuals. In this painting 'Me, Myself and I’, I invite the viewer to visualise themselves sitting in the chair. Who really is the person looking back? The reflection of the chair is only partially visible, suggesting that perhaps we hide parts of ourselves or even don’t always see who we really are.

And can you talk about how your collage work, such as your 'Together/Apart' series [above], relate back to your paintings?
I started the Together/Apart collages at the beginning of lockdown, as, like many people, I had no idea what the next few months would look like, and it felt like a good time to experiment with a medium I hadn't explored before. Initially I didn't have much of a plan. I began by painting sheets of paper and found myself cutting out familiar shapes which I use in my paintings. After some experimentation, the collages started to come together and form these fragmented scenes of homes and buildings. To me, it felt synonymous of how we have all experienced of COVID and the lockdown—together yet apart.

Finally, there’s something very peaceful about your work. What does peace mean to you?
I appreciate simplicity and deliberately leave out detail. For me, beauty doesn't come from detail but from the overall feeling of a piece. c For me personally, painting is often a great source of peace. When I am consumed in the work and able to switch off from day-to-day life, it offers a genuine experience of peace.

annamac.com / @_anna_mac_