Now Featuring Annika Connor

New York painter Annika Connor’s lush interiors are classic and seem a little conservative, until you notice that they’re too lush, too crowded, too adorned.  Glowing, skewed and inviting, her paintings are both a critique of excess and a celebration of fantasy.

Exclusive Print, Scarlet

Exclusive Print, The Lovejoy Approach

Exclusive Print, Chaos Chandelier

Exclusive Print, Songs of Experience

Exclusive Print, The Blue Room

MH: When did you start painting? Can you tell me how you got interested in it?

AC: My first memory of viewing art was when I was very young.  I was with my mother and my grandfather and we had gone see an Yves Klein exhibition of his International Klein Blue- IKB paintings.  The show was wonderful however we were there rather longer then one might expect as we had accidentally locked the keys in the car.

While the adults dealt with this, I roamed the gallery.  I remember being overwhelmed and enchanted by this rich intense blue and being transfixed by the color fields.  The color held such power in it, the paintings seemed to glow, and I couldn’t look away.

As a little kid I was always drawing and lost in my imagination. I first started painting in oils when I was 9 years old, under the instruction from my father’s friend Joyce Burlingham. Joyce is an impressionist styled landscape painter, who had a studio near my family’s house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. From the very first lesson I was hooked on painting, and I have not put down a brush since.  In many ways my paintings are still influenced by the sunshine and flowers I painted then, and the vibrant colors I remembered from looking at the Klein blues.

Casanova Pauses

MH: Watercolor is such an interesting medium; it’s very quick but can also be used laboriously.  Can you talk about how you chose watercolor, especially for interior scenes? It’s an unconventional choice.

AC: Up until 2003 I was an oil painter, but then one day I was away from my studio for a month, and I started to play around in watercolor while I was traveling.  At the time I thought these were to be studies for future oil paintings, but I quickly got drawn into the paintings and instantly became hooked on the medium.

People often tell me they think watercolor is a harder medium because it can be difficult to control, but I fell in love with it.  For me there was something beguiling in the way the paint reacted to the page.  I loved puddling the paint and playing with the medium.

While I occasionally still do an oil painting from time to time, watercolor is now my primary medium, so I pretty much choose to work with it on almost all my paintings regardless of the subject matter.

Quite Rightly

MH: Where do you find the interiors you work from? Are the observed, from found photographs, from your own snapshots?  I am kind of enjoying the mystery of not knowing, of wondering whose worlds these are, but I have to ask!

AC: Mystery is very important to me.  It is something I work hard to infuse in the image and a hook I use to intrigue my viewer.  I want the paintings to be a springboard for my viewer’s imagination so I love it when one of my paintings causes my viewer to think “oh that reminds me of…”

In some cases with my interiors I am referencing a real space and the title may suggest that, or the place is so recognizable one can spot it if they have been there.
However many times my paintings are a composite of my imagination, photos I have taken in New York and on my travels, found photographs I have torn from magazines, or images I have pulled from the Internet.  In these instances the source of the image may not matter too much to me as I am just looking for the light on the walls, the position of the chairs, or the shape of a frame.  At moments like this the initial photo could be of a mostly white room and then I may change everything, put my own paintings on the walls, invent color schemes, design fancy wallpaper, and create patterned carpet.

In a very subtle way, my interiors started as really a commentary on contemporary culture.  I began them during the market booms, from 2005-2007.   To me it was a period of consumption without elegance.  I was 25 and I was often out dancing the night away with friends in finance who were spending more on our drinks for the night then I spent in a month on my rent.  There was of course something fun in this, but also absurd to me.

When I would return to my studio I started looking back to the Rococo, Neoclassical, and Baroque eras where there was also opulence with beauty behind it.  Rather then just mimic these styles, I wanted my interiors to reflect a fascination with the decadence while simultaneously capturing my own sense of unease in it.   If you look closely at my rooms you will notice the walls aren’t straight, the floors are watery, some chairs only have three legs, or the chandeliers seem to dissolve and disconnect.  Initially, the viewer is seduced by the decadence, but, in the end, there is no structure behind the decoration.

To lighten this mood I often give my viewers an out in these paintings.  You will notice if you look at all my interiors that most all have a doorway to another space, a stairwell to descend up, a window to escape from, or a painting of a landscape to bring the outside in.

I also leave the rooms vacant waiting for the viewer but inhabited by the figures in the art, so many of the interiors have figurative paintings on the wall which seem to stare out at the viewer who steps into the space.

There is a surreal quality to many of these works and that is caused by the fact the works reflect this somewhat dizzying world of glamour and intrigue that I often come across in my daily adventures in NYC and abroad.

The Meeting

MH: Tell me about your color and pattern inspirations.  They figure so highly in your work.  Are there other artists, designers and architects you look to?

AC: I am very inspired by the art and activity around me in New York City and on my travels. I look for beauty everywhere and see it often in the wonderful people and places of this city.
I love dressing up and find a lot of inspiration in the fashions I see when out and about.  I collect dresses and find fashion’s fun and whimsical inspirations to be a constant source of creative energy.  I draw a lot of inspiration from the clothes I covet and those I wear.  I am attracted to garments with sumptuous colors, great cuts, and detailed embellishments.  The patterns in these fabrics often play into my paintings.
I also spend a lot of time in museums.  I try and absorb the work of the Masters and steal what beads of influence I can from them.

My favorite place in North America hands down is the Frick Collection.  It is with out a doubt the most marvelous place to be.  Even the air smells nice, and of course the art in the collection is beyond compare.  I can’t tell you how many times I have stood gazing at the paintings there by Whistler, Vermeer, Fragonard, and Ingres.  It is easy to become a better artist just by being there.

Recently I toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Islamic wing.  It too is amazing and filled with color, pattern, and lots of inspiration.  It reminded me so much of Doris Duke’s Shangri La home in Honolulu, which I visited several years ago and have been captivated by ever since.  Her home is one of the most incredible places I have ever been, and I highly recommend that anyone who goes to Hawaii to take the time to tour it.

If in Europe there are tons of great palaces in France once can be inspired at, but if one has the time then I suggest you go see the Sanssouci Castle in Potsdam Germany.  I have only been once, back in 1995, but the memory of it spectacular interiors have remained with me in my imagination ever since.

The list of course could go on and on but I will leave you with a thought I like instead by Marcel Proust who said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”

Find Annika on Facebook and Twitter for all her updates and latest exhibitions.

2 comments

1 Carolyn KisnerNo Gravatar { 12.18.11 at 7:26 pm }

I love Annika Connors work. It is so unique and she has such a detail for what is absolutely worthwhile and beautiful in this world. Her bookshelves and interiors are breathtaking, due to her ability to find the details and the colors just perfectly. I am thrilled she is offering prints and I ordered 2.

2 AnonymousNo Gravatar { 12.20.11 at 3:00 pm }

The work of Annika Connor is so lovely! Thanks LPP for introducing her to me and I plan on ordering prints today!

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