PENELOPE ANSTRUTHER

By SPECIWOMEN Illustration VISNJA MIHATOV

"Obviously my art is from the viewpoint of a female, but ultimately I like to just think about myself as a human"

 ©Visnja Mihatov

©Visnja Mihatov

Who are you?

I was born in England but always had a very strong wanderlust, which has driven me to study Art all over the world: London; Florence, Italy; Osaka, Japan and now in San Francisco. I think being brought up in a multicultural household (my mother is Thai and my father’s English) really encouraged my hunger for travel. As a child we went back to Thailand to visit my family every year, so I have a strong sense not only of my cultural heritage but also of our cultural differences. All of which has had a great influence on my work.

How did you first get into art?

I have always wanted to be an artist! Even from an extremely early age that’s what I wanted to be. I loved to read and write stories and draw the illustrations for them and my father is a passionate art lover and he used to take me up to London every few weeks to look at exhibitions. It was enthralling. I used to go with my little sketchpad and try and copy the masters, as I still do when I get the chance. Funny how often such a simple looking drawing is actually very complex. 

 What is the purpose of your work? 

Initially I make work for myself. Its cathartic, I would go crazy if I didn’t do it. Although most of my art is very personal I try to make it so that the viewer can interpret what they see, and put their own spin on it. That’s when it gets interesting, when ideas merge. If the piece is very abstract I try to guide with the title. I feel like there are hidden patterns and cycles that I must decode and match up in order to understand myself, and therefore everything around me, and art is my tool to do that.

What materials do you use?

Things that are around me. I believe strongly in the power of the object, and the longer I have been with an object, the stronger its emotional potency. Where I found the material, what emotional state I was in when I found it, and who I was with, plays an enormous roll when it comes to its use in my work. I also like to give a second life to discarded objects, elevating and appreciating the overlooked is an important theme (sometimes its those tinny ethereal hints of emotion that get brought forward and are the strongest). I like to use either things weathered by their surroundings or natural items: lichen, chalk, rocks, seashore debris, wax, rusted things, scraps of cloth, wood, paper that I make… really I could make a very long list I am a hoarder of art materials.  

Who inspires you? 

Wow, that’s pretty hard to answer because I have a lot of inspirational characters in my life! All my closest friends are artists and are driving me and inspiring me every day. I work as an assistant for three artists (separately, they’re not a collective) who are constantly influencing me. I teach art classes for kids sometimes and honestly their drawings are always amazing! Obviously my family is very important to me- my brother is a musician in London and is always up to something good.

As for big names I have a few constant go-tos: Joseph Cornell, Louise Bourgeois, Grayson Perry, Cy Twombly, Joseph Beuys … I could go on and on… oh! And of course T. S. Eliot who’s poetry I absolutely adore.

Where do you prefer to work? 

I have a teeny tiny studio in my apartment and that’s where I work. Preferably it would be about ten times larger but that’s something to aim towards. I also like to take the bus and write and take photographs during the journey. Traveling anywhere, even down the road, is inspiring- I’m bound to see something that rouses my interest!

Who is your work for?

Anyone that wants to see it! I honestly hope there’ s a little bit of something for everyone in there.

Has your art ever been on display? 

Yes luckily! I had a very successful Foundation Year Show in London, I’ve shown several times in the Diego Rivera Gallery at SFAI, as well as their photo gallery Still Lights. As a culmination of my study abroad in Japan, we had an exhibition in the tallest building in Osaka (that was awesome) and, most exciting of all, one of my videos was accepted this month to be in the annual screening at Southern Exposure, a gallery in SF.

What are your favorite places in your city or around the world? 

I like to wander round China Town. It’s my absolute favorite place to photograph. Living in Florence was where my real art training and love of photography begun so I will always have dear memories there. Its really one of the most beautiful cities… But, even though I don’t live there right now, London is my favorite city in the world- just in terms of free art galleries its unbeatable- and honestly, there’s no place like home when your away.

How has the female role played into your life? 

I’d say it’s just about effected every aspect of my existence! Obviously my art is from the viewpoint of a female, but ultimately I like to just think about myself as a human. We're all just trying to get through it, you know?

 

@kiteflyinginthedark

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