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The Art of Anna Mazzotta: Narrative is Queen

You should all hereby go to La Trattoria by Alfredo Russo in the basement of the Pelham Hotel in South Kensington, not only to try the excellent Italian food but to view the remarkable exhibition by Anna Mazzotta. Her paintings are cinematic mise-en-scènes where the characters, often clad in vintage clothes, seem to communicate with glances and stifled laughter at something beyond our vision and understanding.

An alumna of Wimbledon College of Art and the Royal College of Art, and a winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, Anna paints from imagination. She was recently commissioned to paint a portrait of iconic actress Jane Fonda; Anna imagined her in a viridian green outfit à la Barbarella. She told SEEN that she often zeroes in on a particular vivid hue as a starting point. She also draws in charcoal, her favourite medium, “an extension of my arm,” and is unafraid to leave process marks on the paper. A drawing inspired by Isabella Blow (The Black Widow) is breathtaking, channelling the late stylist’s eccentric and humorous style with a spider on her head and a giant fish draped over one arm.

Anna Mazzotta
Black Widow’s Catch
Anna Mazzotta

Anna is a great fan of using humour more generally in her work. We talked about how women are so often portrayed as suffering (often with overtly religious themes) so it’s refreshing to see Anna’s women flailing after a bouquet thrown at a wedding in a drunken scramble, or gazing at a lover when playing cards, wondering when he’s going to play his hand. Anna’s characters are complex and secretive, fully rounded people who are human, not necessarily signifiers of a particular virtue.

Anna gleans her ideas from many other creative disciplines and loves foreign cinema, particularly the films of Park Chan Wook. Rudolf Valentino is another influence, as are the clothes and accessories of vintage eras. Her paintings are generally large in scale but there are also smaller portraits of the characters in Cluedo: Miss Scarlet looking like she’d stepped from a Renoir as she returns our gaze. The paintings and drawings look particularly well in their surroundings, their sly humour and bright colours perfectly complementing the ambience of the restaurant. Indeed, if you were dining completely alone, the characters in the art would soon make you feel part of their drama. The exhibition is on until March 2018 and bears repeated viewing; so easy to do in such an agreeable setting.

The Pelham
15 Cromwell Place