Ania Hobson
Ania Hobson
With a BP Portrait Award before her 30th birthday, this young Suffolk artist has already created a distinctive style of her own, as STEVE PILL discovers

The studio has been a second home for Ania Hobson of late. The talented young portrait painter is currently preparing for her first London solo exhibition and the deadline is looming. “I’ve been in here pretty much all week, from 8am to 5pm, and I’ll be standing all day,” she says. “It’s really intense, I think I’ve made myself ill a few times.”

Of course, you’d never tell from the bright, breezy way in which Ania recounts all of this. If she is stressed, it doesn’t show. She works at Asylum Studios in Suffolk, a co-operative based at the former RAF Bentwaters. Her own space is tidy, high-ceilinged and filled with plants. “I love the space so much, I just want to make it like my home because I spend a lot of time there. It’s the one place where I’ll go even if I’m not doing much painting, and I’ll relax there. It’s nice to look at your own work and take it all in.”

The downside to being bound to the studio seven days a week, she says, is that it makes it harder to come up with ideas for new paintings.

“You almost hit a point where you get… Not a painter’s block, but you need to feel things and experience things, so it is really good to take a step back, go outside. You don’t even have to be researching, it could just be going for a walk or seeing your friends and new ideas will pop up.”

One such idea that Ania intends to paint soon came when she happened to walk past a bingo hall and became captivated by the glowing neon sign and the happy women congregated outside. Not only did she photograph the exterior for use as reference, she also went back to play. “I thought I’ve got to experience bingo if I’m going to paint it – and it was actually really great. You’ve got women sat there by themselves, all dressed up with their pints of beer, and that’s really confident because I wouldn’t do that.”

“This show has really opened my eyes to doing things I’d probably never really paint before and I’m tackling things in a completely different way, so it’s exciting for me at the moment.”

With ideas for paintings in place, Ania will then work with her sitters to test out potential compositions. The pose of a person or an unusual angle can usually provide the starting point, before other elements can be introduced, like a chair or a plant.


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May 2020