Suffolk portrait winner Ania Hobson showcases ‘modern woman’

Ania Hobson in her Suffolk studio with her 2020 paintings destined for her first London solo show at

Ania Hobson in her Suffolk studio with her 2020 paintings destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant

Ania Hobson is a rising star on the contemporary art scene. She first came to national prominence when she won the Young Artist prize at BP’s Portrait Awards in 2018, now this weekend she opens her first solo show in London

The Meet Up, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gal

The Meet Up, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant

Award-winning Suffolk artist Ania Hobson can legitimately be called a rising star. Two years ago she claimed the Young Artist Prize at the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery and now she is opening her first solo show at a London Gallery.

The 30 year-old artist, who works at Asylum Studios on the former Bentwaters airbase, has captured the imagination of art critics and collectors with her distinctive style. Ania paints strong, independent, millennial women, frequently using family and friends as models. She shies away from depicting them as overly romantic or feminine preferring to show them in everyday clothes and chunky boots.

She says that their natural femineity will emerge from the work and will reflect what she sees as era of rising female consciousness.

“I like celebrating modern day women but I avoid painting them in a stereotypically feminine way. Women artists are now breaking through and becoming recognised for what we do, and I want to be part of that movement. I am trying to make my mark in a man’s world and I want to help portray women as strong, world-changing creatures.”

Gut Instinct, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Ga

Gut Instinct, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant


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Talking of how she approaches her work, she makes a surprising statement. She says she strives to avoid perfection, preferring to exaggerate her figures and allowing her emotions and experiences to guide her work.

“There is so much you can convey in a person, so much emotion, so much feeling and that provides something for the viewer to connect with and allows them to construct their own story around the painting.”

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It is this approach which gives Ania’s work that distinctive look and arresting quality. Her figures are very striking and her work very direct.

It is this directness which attracted the attention of The Catto Gallery in Hampstead. Her show is entitled Modern Women and Ania is thrilled to be bringing her contemporary figurative style to a larger audience.

Ferns, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery

Ferns, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant

Ania says she has always painted and graduated with a degree in fine art from Suffolk University in 2011. She then went on to study at the Princes Drawing School in London and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. Hobson was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale 2019, as part of a group show called Personal Structures – Identities.

This latest development is the next step on the road to developing a strong career as a professional artist. “I try not to plan ahead too much but you do have to seize opportunities and you do have to keep yourself out there. I try and keep my work fresh and so I will also have something new to show when an opportunity presents itself.”

She said that the Catto Gallery invited her to put together a show last year having first become aware of her through the BP Portrait Awards. “Then they had kept an eye on my work through my Instagram feed and they just contacted me out of the blue and offered me a solo show and I just grabbed it because this is a wonderful opportunity to put my work before a new audience.”

She admits that getting this new selection of work ready in time has been something of a challenge because of lockdown. “For well over a month I was unable to go into the studio and although I tried working at home, there were just too many distractions.

Ania Hobson in her Suffolk studio with her 2020 paintingThe Meet Up Photo: Ania Hobson

Ania Hobson in her Suffolk studio with her 2020 paintingThe Meet Up Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant

“I managed to get back in the studio about six weeks ago and have been spending every waking hour there, just getting everything ready.”

Ania says that this latest exhibition is doubly exciting because the work on display will represent something of a sea-change in subject matter. “In the past I have very much worked from life. I have painted what I have seen in front of me but these new paintings spring much more from my imagination.

“These are scenes conjured up in my brain and then transferred to canvas. I may get some friends in to pose for me, for example I got my brother and his wife to sit in a car for me while I sketched them, but the situations are really born from my imagination – which is a new way of working for me.”

The other change she has recognised in her work is that she has started to use a more extensive palette. “I am using brighter colours now. I am using a lot of reds at the moment. I think in the past I was tending to stick to darker colours, a lot of brown and black and now things are brightening up. I am using more night-time blue with reds and perhaps a yellow outline on the figures to represent a light from somewhere.

Doctor Martens, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto

Doctor Martens, one of Ania Hobson's latest works, destined for her first London solo show at Catto Gallery Photo: Ania Hobson - Credit: Archant

“I am definitely seeing a change in my work. I think everything is becoming a little more bold and defined, I think.”

Ania Hobson’s solo exhibition is showing at The Catto Gallery, Hampstead, until September 23.

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