Interview with ROSIE MCCLELLAND
PSI: What led you to work in pastels?
Rosie: My first set of soft pastels was given to me by an American flatmate as a birthday present when I was at St Martin’s School of Art in 1973. We were both studying fashion illustration at the time and spent almost every day figure drawing. I found the pastels very useful for establishing large blocks of saturated colour quickly and I used them in conjunction with graphite or charcoal. I have also used oil pastels as a sketching medium since I was at school. They are much less messy when you’re out and about and don’t need fixing!
PSI: What aspects of pastel painting do you enjoy?
Rosie: I love the potential for mark-making and the fact that it is so close to drawing. It is a very immediate medium but can also be built up in layers allowing a painting to evolve. The pureness and saturation of the pigments also plays a large role in its appeal and I have found that working with pastels has helped my understanding of the use of colour in oil painting.
PSI: How important is your subject matter?
Rosie: Subject matter is something I need to connect with, something that is relevant to me at any particular time of my life. When my children were little I painted whatever was around me, kettles, newspapers, teacups, clothes drying on a radiator, piles of empty cat food tins waiting to be recycled!! I was living in Germany at the time and went to see a Giorgio Morandi exhibition in Frankfurt Hoechst and was bowled over. I don’t think, like him, that I could paint the same objects all my life but I began to understand that it was the contemplation involved in still life that fascinated me. My paintings of water, seascapes, boats in harbours, tethered boats on water also have a lot to do with contemplation and of course the symbol of the boat has always held a powerful significance throughout the ages of birth death and journeys. Probably my favourite subject is the human figure and portrait painting has become increasingly more important to me recently but once again it’s the connection to the subject that’s important.
PSI: What artists inspire you?
Rosie: I have already mentioned Giorgio Morandi but there have been many artists that I have admired and who have definitely influenced me. At college, when my interests lay more in the fashion world I looked to artists such as Matisse, Modigliani, Klimt, Schiele, Beardsley, Mucha for colour, pattern and quality of line. Later, during my years in Germany, I visited as many exhibitions of the expressionists as I could. Max Beckmann, Kandinsky, Gabriele Munther, Erich Heckel, Kirchner –how exciting to have been painting at that time when everything was changing! More recently, though, I have turned to the old masters for my inspiration – Goya, Chardin, Caravaggio, Zurbaran, Ribeiro. I can’t visit the National gallery in Dublin without going to see Caravaggio’s “The Taking of Christ”. What drama!