Penny Graham studied at the Chelsea School of Art in the early 90s and she has been attending Maggi Hambling’s life classes regularly for the last 20 years.
She is known for her intense and colourful interiors. Subjects have varied in size, decor and content from the magnificent Carved Room at Petworth to the tiny and idiosyncratic interior of Roald Dahl’s writing hut in Buckinghamshire.
Her talent lies in conveying the spirit of the place. Her eye sweeps round the room taking in about 145 degrees and captures the whole view. ‘I want you to feel immersed’ she says.
There is no room that she doesn’t enjoy painting, except those that are hardly ever used. “I like the feeling of people being around even if they are not actually in the picture’.
Although the majority of her rooms are sitting rooms and studies, she has done numerous kitchens, halls, studies even a bath room as the owner loved the way the light flooded in there in the morning.
Her paintings are not always of a whole room. ‘You can often capture the feeling with just a corner, or even with a single piece of furniture.’
She has also painted a lot of exterior views ‘I like to get the house to sit in its own particular space – like it’s sitting in the palm of your hand.
She works in gouache and ink on paper and sizes of these works range approximately from 10in. by 12in. up to 23in. by 15in.
When not working on commissioned work in situ, she heads to her West London studio where she paints still lives ‘to keep grounded in reality’, or digs out photo albums and scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings and plucks images from these.
These works, which are in oil, often have several sources. They are not portraits – more pleasurable memories. The figures are simply used as formal elements – objects in a giant still life.
Everybody tends to be static – its the relationship and distance between them that interests her. (Sometimes there is a waiter in the distance. ‘He appeared because I like the dynamic – but I rather wonder if he is really a waiter..maybe he is Fate? With the menu? Even the bill?’)
These works are about colour. ‘As I’m not painting from life I can do whatever I want. My studio is in rather a grey place so I like to keep myself cheered up. My aim is for my work to sing out”
Penny’s works are in private collections in the U.K, France, Italy, and the USA. Her interiors have been commissioned by leading interior decorators – Veere Grenney, Colefax and Fowler and Tino Zervudachi.