ArtChat [Blog Interview Number 23] – Regina Noakes

Western Australian artist Regina Noakes will be exhibiting in Red Hill Gallery’s Christmas exhibition alongside artists Larissa Blake, Karen Atkins and Keith Rowe . Known for her colourful, figurative oil paintings Regina Noakes is highly collected by a very long reputable list of institutions and people. Her work has a quiet ease that comes from her complete confidence in her style and ability which makes her one of Red Hill Gallery’s more popular artists.

AC:    Regina, how did you get into painting and what made you want (or who encouraged you) to pursue a career in art? RN:    My grandmother was an artist and I stayed with her for quite a long      time while my mother pursued her music studies at the Royal College of London. So my grandmother tried to keep me entertained while she also painted by allowing me full use of her painting equipment. She had many books on art too so I was constantly reading and was totally emersed in art and also music. I thought that was what everyone else did!

AC:    You have studied in Italy and now you are working there for the government. Can you elaborate a little on what you are up to at the moment? RN:    The Government of Rome has a restoration project with some historians (Uni of Roma  and Istituto d’Arte A Passaglia, Lucca. Several years ago (in my youth) I was   apprentice to a professor of Art and Restoration in Capri, Napoli. I gained some experience from helping and studying in the restoring of frescoes.  I have been asked to participate in the project, which involves working in way out buildings with frescoes in dire need of help as well as teaching a few students some of the techniques needed.

AC:    You recently had an exhibition in Venice that sold out the night before it opened. How did that make you feel and has something like this ever happened to you before? RN:      Well that particular exhibition was in 2009 but I have since had 2 sell out exhibitions in Sydney and 1 in Perth. It feels amazing to know that your work is so highly sought after. A sell out exhibition is the most humble compliment an artist can receive.

AC:    Your work is very thought provoking and sometimes has qualities of an unreality or a complex psychological state. Would you agree with this observation? RN:    I have two kinds of paintings. One is the ‘real’ kind, still in a complex psychological state. The people are often in their own world, not unhappy but not smiling; often at a table with things from the past…. a still life.  Or by themselves caught in a ‘moment’ of thought. If you are thinking to yourself ….you will not be smiling. You will be preoccupied,

Then there is the ‘imaginative’ kind. For example the painting ‘There’s a Bird in the House’, or ‘Unlikely Friends’. A little bit strange…but I am painting from my childhood when I felt the bird was as big as me. A little bit of fear, excitement, reaching out to something foreign and trying to connect with it. Unreal qualities and slightly crazy, but with a strong element of fun.

AC:    I am told you are very family orientated and are often inspired by friends, family and your heritage. What does family mean to you and your work? RN:    Family means everything to me. I have 3 adult children who are very community minded. My husband and I travel abroad intensely for work and we all speak to each other every day; we’re a close family with a very wide extended family. I had a wonderful childhood growing up with aunties and grandparents who read and travelled a lot. It was a very social minded family.

AC:    Clients have often commented on the almost Cezannian nature of your still life objects within your work, such as bowls of fruit. What do you think about this? You’ve obviously studied art history and being an artist would have a strong knowledge of past processes and developments... do you ever find yourself being influenced by past artists? RN:     I love to paint fruit and objects that have belonged to my family. I am trying to preserve the ornaments and objects that have been passed down the family in my paintings.

Linen tablecloths are some of the things I have grown up and inherited. My heritage is both Indian and European.

I am strongly influenced by Mughal paintings from India, and also the Romanesque paintings of Europe.

I paint mainly with the palette knife, with a technique used on frescoes.

AC:    We’ve heard you were once approached by a very famous, music legend who happens to be a collector of your work. Can you tell our readers the story behind this meeting? RN:    Yes, I was having breakfast at an airport and a chap came to my table and wanted to join me. I was not very happy and looked around at all the empty tables and told him that as he was bothering me and I would leave and sit somewhere else. He kept insisting that he wanted to talk to me. “Bugger off” was going through my head. I noticed a small crowd gathering around and people pointing. This ’person’ said he was ‘Eric’ and I told him ‘well okay but I didn’t really care and I even told him I had an uncle called Eric!Anyway he grinned and I kind of heard….Regina my name is ”Eric Clapton”. It was hilarious!

Apparently he had bought some of my paintings and recognized me from the photo in the catalogue.

AC:    Now, that being said, what sort of music do you enjoy listening to while working? RN:    Eric Clapton  of course! Sting has bought several paintings too but I tend to listen to Eric more while I work...

AC:    Back to business – how are the paintings for the exhibition at Red Hill Gallery coming along? RN:    Really good. I won’t reveal anymore... you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

AC:    And lastly, what do you hope your art means to your collectors and what does it mean to you? RN:    I have had many people buy more than one piece for their collection.

Regina Noakes With Lonnie Schlein photo editor for New York Times
Regina Noakes With Lonnie Schlein photo editor for New York Times

They really enjoy the work and I sometimes get letters from people telling me how they love the piece they have bought. So that is nice - and inspiring. My plumber has one, the RAC man (when I rang to get my battery changed) has one, Eric Clapton has 17 (my greatest fan!!) Sting has several too.

I travel intensely and am away from Perth at least 4 months in the year. I paint overseas also. When I am back I paint intensely as I have solos and several invited exhibitions in a year.

I need my privacy very much and my studio is out of bounds to all except my family. Sometimes I may not leave my house for days or find it hard to answer the phone and definitely not the front door! Just have to keep my train of thought steady.

I love to paint. I paint for myself, and then put it out to share with everyone.