Celia Paul

Celia Paul paints portraits of herself, family and friends. She has a clear preference for depicting subjects with whom she has a connection, rather than professional models. This print from the Collection depicts her friend the film producer Alison Owen whose films include ‘Suffragette’ (2015) and ‘How to Build a Girl’ (2019).

In this work Celia Paul shows her concern for both physicality and intimacy. The technique of etching allows for the production of rapid mark making, which is reminiscent of the effect of sketches produced in pencil. Paul uses cross hatching and repeated curved lines to represent the form of Owen’s pregnant body. She presents a closely cropped view of Owen smiling in her sleep – a moment experienced by someone sitting alongside her, creating a sense of physical and emotional closeness.

‘Women, in my experience, find it easier to sit still and think their own thoughts, and they often hardly seem to be aware that I’m there in the same room. For this reason I usually feel more peaceful when I’m working from a woman, and more free’.

Celia Paul was born in 1959 in Thiruvananthapuram, India. Her work has been exhibited across Europe, in the Middle East and America. Celia’s first solo exhibition was at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London in 1986. She had several solo shows at Marlborough Fine Art, and is now represented by the Victoria Miro Gallery. She was included in the ‘All Too Human’ exhibition at Tate Britain in 2018 and has had solo shows at Yale Centre for British Art in 2018, and at the Huntington Museum Los Angeles in 2019.

In 2020 her memoir Self-Portrait was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Christopher Bland Prize.