Anita moved to central London in Spring 2010. She lives in a stunning flat in the City and works from her new studio in the fashionable arts quarter just south of London Bridge. Her life has changed quite dramatically since moving from her large Victorian family home in suburban South London. This is the new ‘City Anita’, with a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step as she makes her journey in to work each day - a walk down to the river and across her choice of bridge, passing St Paul’s, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge and the spectacular new Shard building along the way.
When Anita talks about her new life in London her face lights up as she describes the excitement of discovering the city afresh with her new favourite restaurants, museums and galleries all on her doorstep. Anita’s life has moved on again. She has two beautiful, grown-up daughters with whom she continues to share very special moments (‘Hot Chocolate with Leila’ and ‘The Birthday Present’) but she and her husband Nigel are doing things for themselves now. It is very much their beautiful apartment, in their own bold and sophisticated style with furniture designed not to withstand grubby shoes and spilt cereal but rather for lounging on together to enjoy the splendid views of London or to indulge in the latest Mad Men box set.
Anyone familiar with Anita’s work will expect her to record this new phase of her life and these London paintings do not disappoint. These depictions of family life revel in their vibrant new setting while happily retaining the warmth, gentle humour and poignant observation for which Anita is so fondly celebrated. It is fascinating to compare these with her recent Italian paintings that are more contemplative and less grounded in the everyday. Lingering on personal emotions and sensations in response to the beauty of the Italian countryside they have a dreamlike or timeless quality.
To label these Italian works ‘escapist’ however would be a mistake. Anita’s life in London is clearly as exhilarating as her life in Italy. The bright greens, blues and yellows of the Italian paintings are also evident in the ‘London’ palette. The woman lounging on her beautiful, designer sofa is not uptight or burdened with the stresses often associated with living in a city (indeed the only anxiety in any of these works is on Nigel’s face in ‘England in the World Cup’). As she always has done, Anita shows us how to stop and cherish the beauty of an everyday moment – even a rainy walk to work.
There is a zest to these London works, a freshness that stems from an artist relishing new inspiration and exploring a variety of creative possibilities. Tellingly, London is where Anita creates all her prints (she has a wonderful old printing press in her new studio) and much of her time in London is devoted to busily investigating the potential of drypoint, woodblock, collograph and linocut. For example, Anita’s mastery of drypoint, honed through the creation of countless editions since art college, allows her to draw subjects directly onto the etching plate without making preliminary sketches. This directness, this confidence, lends a keen vitality to these prints and makes them the perfect catalyst for a colour sketch and then finally large acrylic paintings on board.
In Italy, by contrast, Anita works solely in acrylic and if an Italian subject is to be interpreted as a print, this will be done back in the London studio on her return. Obviously the difficult logistics of taking printing plates out to Italy prompt a change of method but fundamentally it is a change in Anita’s mind-set that demands a different approach. In Italy where the works are all about encapsulating an emotion or a spontaneous response to a bird song, or the feel wind in her hair, Anita feels a greater urgency to capture this on a canvas in all its immediacy and vivid colour. In London her work is more considered, the working process more ‘empirical’ even. We can see the consummate image-maker at work, distilling a wealth of new material and calibrating subtle changes in colour and pattern or constructing sophisticated compositions in a velvety rich drypoint line.
So are the apparent contrasts in these new Italian and London works evidence of ‘two lives’ lived separately? On the contrary when considered together, it is clear that these wonderful new works reflect the two different ways of working, thinking and living that are shaping a singular and very compelling creative life. As this life enters a new phase they hold up a mirror up to two sides of Anita’s artistic personality. A personality that continues to fascinate, surprise and delight us in equal measure.
Vincent and Rebecca Eames are The Fine Art Partnership. They have been collectors and dealers in Anita’s work for over 15 years and conveniently live just down the road from Anita’s favourite Italian restaurant in London.