I recently asked the contemporary artist Belinda Eaton a few questions about her art. She was featured on the Star Portraits with Rolf Harris television program from the BBC.
1. You were recently featured on the “Star Portraits with Rolf Harris” program on the BBC. How was that experience?
The whole experience was like a roller coaster ride which was ultimately brilliant.
From initially being contacted and declining due to intense fear of coming out of one’s studio and painting in front of people, cameras and ultimately an audience of millions, to the amazing response I received from all over the world.
The concept of the show, to bring three painters together, with totally different styles, characters etc., painting the same portrait, had intrigued me when I saw the first series, the previous year. I never thought I would be contacted to take part, in fact I couldn’t believe any painter could put themselves through the agony of painting in front of a camera.
But it was a really interesting experience. The three of us were so different. With totally different styles, techniques, motivations etc. but unanimously enjoying each others company as we all shared the loneliness of working in our studios being our own driving forces. There was a point when l looked at the three of us waiting for Rolf Harris and thought a cartoonist couldn’t have done a better job in characterizing us alongside our paintings.
Which brings me to how great it was to meet Rolf and work with him. Such a generous and warm supporting man, constantly interested in what one was up too and really supportive. I was pleased I went ahead with the show and confronted my demons of fear. The exposure and response was amazing as an estimated 5 million people saw the show on BBC One in the U.K. I hadn’t realized that the program would be broadcast beyond the UK, and so far It keeps on spreading. On the 15th August 2006 it was broadcast on ABC TV in Australia, ending up in America next year. So each time it airs my website is bombarded with visits and e-mails and I am amazed at how well people really respond to my paintings.
2. Is the energy and color of your paintings influenced by your cultural background?
I am trying to decipher my ‘cultural background’ and what that really means to me and I would say that my cultural background is an accumulated effect of everything that I have been exposed to during the course of my life.
The many different places and cultures l have lived in, from Africa as a child, New York in the 80´s, Pakistan and France in the 90´s, and finally Spain. So I don’t think I have any fixed perception or conceptions. Quite simply because they are constantly being challenged and maybe if anything, that causes me to create a Belinda reality, from which I can dive out of when it suites me, and grab an image, a discipline, from anywhere, occasionally mixing them all up in a single painting. If anything the studio and the canvas are the one constant in my life and when I stand in front of the canvas I am in the present, allowing the painting to tell me what’s going on and creating a space for intuitive painting and adventure.
3. How has your website been of benefit to you as an artist? Would you have any tips for an artist thinking about starting their own site?
Oh, my website has been fantastic. For me it’s a place of interaction and feedback. I get responses from all over the world and so much feedback, as we painters who work in isolation, need the occasional bit of feedback.
It creates a chain reaction as well, someone starts blogging about you, and one gets the opportunity to do an interview like this. It’s all exposure and you never know, who is browsing. My current exhibition in Germany is a result of the director reading about me on someone’s blog. He flew down to see me, resulting in a show in September in Regensburg, followed by one in Cannes.
One has to be wary of galleries that trawl the art directories and propose to show one for a fee with little risk to themselves.
Most important of all, the website is not just a window for your work to the world, it also works for you, therefore it is so important to really invest in it properly and make sure its easy to view with no silly gimmicks that distract from your work. It’s also very important you find someone who really knows what they are doing to make it visible on the web and get indexed by Google and a whole lot of other things that I don’t really understand.
4. What future plans do you have? Any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you are excited about?
I have a show coming up in Germany in mid September at the Art Affair Gallery which will be really interesting as it features current paintings alongside a few that were done 18 years ago in New York.
The show will continue to France in November. The decision to include the New York paintings has made me really look at the way I paint and respond to my environment and how my technique has changed, although the basic energy is the same. The paintings from New York were on a much larger scale as my studio there was in a church tower and I could just explode with all the space and light flooding through the 3m high windows. I realize with excitement that in few months I move to my new studio, which for the first time since then, is a huge space with fantastic light. In the middle of the Spanish desert, dry and barren with nothing really growing except cacti and olive trees and shifting light that changes the hills and mountains from browns to indigos. I feel a surge of energy coming and a whole new explosion of work . So I am very excited!