Evie O’Connor on her intimate portraits that explore class and politics

Date
13 February 2019

Evie O’Connor’s paintings are intimate, elegant and some are even downright funny. On first glance, the pieces that really grab our attentions are the painted ashtrays of Theresa May and Boris Johnson, captioned with “Prime Twat” and “Lying Twat” respectively. She professes how her work can be “crass and political at times” as part of her larger exploration into symbols of privilege and wealth.

In other works, that also centre on portraiture, the Manchester-based artist depicts stylised scenes of domestic environments featuring familiar figures that she grew up with. Drawing on her background as a textiles designer, her paintings are informed by the decorative intricacies that make up the painting’s composition. Distinctively, her portraits pay particular attention to facial idiosyncrasies and human expression through posture and mannerism. By contrast, the painting’s backgrounds are more gestural, suggesting an atmosphere through pastel-coloured brush strokes and definitive line.

She imagines “both a beautiful and droll environment” in her paintings, alluding to her upbringing in rural north England which in turn, informs her thematic interests in “isolation, class and identity.” Evie paints those closest to her, embarking an observational study of people onto the canvas as a “highly precious form of documentation”. Akin to any good portraiture artist, Evie creates an intimate mood with the subject and their surroundings, leaving small clues within the painting’s composition which hint at further suggestion of personality.

Last year, Evie also worked on a book called Care, published by London’s ICA. “The writer Klein reached out to me saying she was developing a musical at the ICA and thought my style of painting would fit well with the children’s book”, Evie tells It’s Nice That. The musical’s narrative follows two sister’s journey “from care home to magical land”. “I instantly loved the sound of the project”, says Evie, “I listened carefully to Klein’s references and understood the very naive style she wanted”, to appropriately coincide with Evie’s own aesthetic. At the time, the painter was looking into a lot of folk and outsider artists, including John Kirby and Clementine Hunter whose sense of surreal reality seeps out through painting. And these references are palpable in Evie’s illustrations, which relay Klein’s story through quirky yet expressive characters and smoothly painted scenery.

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor

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Evie O’Connor: Care

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Evie O’Connor: Care

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Evie O’Connor: Care

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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