Artist Interview

Anita Klein: master printmaker answers ‘Seven Questions’

Written for Print Day in May 2019 as part of ‘Seven Questions for a Printmaker Series’.

Printmaker Anita Klein and her deceptively simple prints, which evoke a sensitivity and warmth.
‘Peeling an orange’ by Anita Klein

Who is Anita Klein?

You may already know the work of Anita Klein – the almond shaped eyes of her subjects, the mother and child embraces that are charming and immediately identifiable. Everyday subjects presented with a simplicity that is heart warming without being saccharine, which of course hides the talent and technique behind the work. She is one of Britain’s most recognised artists with a reputation for her dry point etchings, alongside paintings and linocuts, “My work is like a visual diary so I make pictures of what my everyday life feels like to me.”

“There is a grand simplicity to her works, but that is not the same as saying they lack subtlety and ambiguity. On the contrary, they have the sort of unselfconscious directness that comes from living and breathing art for so long that it becomes second nature,” John Russell Taylor. There is often balance, symmetry and a considered palette to be found in her paintings, skills learnt during a lifetime of observation.

Beauty in simplicity

When I got in touch to ask whether she might be prepared to answer our series ‘Seven Questions for a Printmaker’ I didn’t imagine that she would reply so promptly and so generously, “Let me know how I can help in any way.” The lightness of her tone is, of course, reflected in her humorous prints presenting domestic situations that are familiar to us all! “It is nice to have a real humorist recruited to the ranks of gifted painters, she is to be congratulated on livening up our dreary lives,” Art Review.

Born in Australia, she studied at Chelsea College of Art, followed by a degree and MA at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. She is a fellow and was the President of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RE) from 2003 – 2006 and has work in many private and public collections (Europe, USA and Australia) including the Arts Council England, the British Museum and the V&A.  

Anita answers seven questions for a printmaker….

  1. Do you remember the first print you ever made? 

It was at my wonderful primary school, Preshil in Melbourne Australia. It was called finger-painting. We each had a shiny white table and a choice of finger paint colours. When we were ready a teacher came with a large sheet of paper which we pressed onto our painting. So essentially a monotype. It hooked me for life. 

2. Are you a trained artist ~ do you think that’s important? 

I spent 7 years at art school, a year’s foundation at Chelsea, a 4 year painting degree at the Slade and a 2 year postgraduate printmaking MA at the Slade. Of course it’s not essential, but for me it was a wonderful chance to find my own subject-matter that has sustained me ever since. 

3. What type of printmaking techniques do you favour and why? 

I use whatever technique most suits the image I am working on. Mostly lino it’s and drypoints these days, but I also work on lithographs , screenprints, woodcuts, etchings, collographs, wood engravings and monotypes 

Creativity as a visual diary….

4. What projects are you currently working on? 

I don’t work on projects. My work is like a visual diary so I make pictures of what my everyday life feels like to me. 

5. What drives you to make prints? 

Printmaking techniques are a way of making marks that are not possible any other way. I tend to prefer simple methods where technique doesn’t get in the way of expressive drawing. 

6. Who has been an important mentor in your life? 

Paula Rego taught me at the Slade and was incredibly helpful and encouraging when I was nervous about being myself in my work. 

7. Which are materials do you favour and why?

Anything that enables me to best express the feeling in each individual picture. I still love painting with my fingers, a rag and etching ink and making monotypes. Fingers are the closest link between the inside of your head and a picture. 

Twitter: @anitakleinart

Instagram: anitakleinart 

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