“I was pinching myself,” recalls artist Ania Hobson of her win at last year’s BP Portrait Awards. Her painting A Portrait of Two Female Painters claimed the Young Artist Award at the National Portrait Gallery event. “Actually, I remember getting the phone call. I was having a really low day and was just not in the mood. I remember sitting in my car having a breather before I went to the studio and I saw this number pop up on my phone. I’d already imagined what it would be like to go through that process, and weirdly in my head I was like, maybe this is it!”
A “dream come true moment,” as Hobson tells Refinery29, the recognition garnered from the show proved advantageous: she was subsequently tapped to exhibit at this year’s Venice Biennale, as part of the current group show PERSONAL STRUCTURES – Identities at the European Cultural Centre (on display until November), while in London this summer she will return to the National Portrait Gallery, additionally hosting an exhibition at the Mall Galleries.
Sourcing inspiration “from literally anything around me,” she cites American painters Alice Neel and Kerry James Marshall as chief references, while Hobson’s own practice shares a sensibility and visual code with the imagery of Canadian artist Chloe Wise (the 28-year-old behind Jacquemus’s mould-refiguring SS19 fashion campaign): both women have tapped into a traditionally conventional art form, reimagining what figurative painting can look like within a millennial gaze. For her part, Ania paints her subjects often in close proximity to contemporary tropes like cacti and coffee, however it’s her use of current fashions that most distinctly solidify this interpretation of the form.