Raina Goran was one of the 42 artists shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize this year with her acrylic collage work, Tel Aviv 2. Using shapes of painted paper, Raina interprets the places she has encountered on her travels and arranges the pieces to describe each of their unique energies. Here, Raina tells us about her process, intuition with colour and the unique way she has adapted to sourcing imagery of her favourite global landmarks in lockdown.
Above image: Orange Sky Over London at Night, 2020, Raina Goran, Acrylic & collage on paper, 24 x 34 cm
Clare: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education?
Raina: Art was always my first love in life. As a child I could entertain myself for hours engrossed in various creative projects. The natural route for me was to study
illustration at Wimbledon School of Art. When I graduated, I worked as a freelance illustrator for a short while and then found a job in a studio designing and mocking up greeting card designs before progressing to Creative Director of greeting cards at Athena. Whilst raising my family, I turned my hand to painting murals, running an art agency and working in education. After a while, I felt a longing to paint again and in 2013 I made the decision to go back to my first love of painting full time. I am now enjoying being immersed in the art world, selling and exhibiting regularly.
Clare: How would you describe your practice?
Raina: I would describe myself as a contemporary, mixed media artist working in acrylic and paper collage. I am inspired by city and landscapes. I record my landscape by editing and abstracting what I see into patterns and vibrant coloured shapes made from torn or cut pieces of hand painted paper.
Clare: Where does a painting begin for you? Can you describe your process?
Raina: My collage artworks are about places that I have been that resonate with me. I usually work from a photo and start my process by painting large sheets of cartridge paper using Winsor & Newton acrylic paint in my chosen colours. I then put a grid around my photo reference and a corresponding one around my board so that I can plot my design by eye. Then I use the sheets of colour to block in my design. I cut and tear my papers intuitively, editing until I have captured my subject by finding the most important shapes and colour balance. Often, moving them around like a puzzle, before finally sticking them down. By working in this way, I create a new version but retain the essence and energy of the original place.
Clare: I really enjoy the perspective in your work. It almost feels like the view you might get from a helicopter. What can you tell us about the perspective in your paintings?
Raina: I am particularly drawn to aerial view cityscapes as I enjoy finding patterns and shapes within them which create a journey for the eye to follow through the collage painting. I also use scale and tone to create the illusion of perspective, using muted tones and smaller, simpler, shapes going into the distance.
Clare: The palette you use to express the energy of these various landmarks is so bold. What can you tell us about your approach to colour? What are the colours you cannot get by without?
Raina: I am passionate about colour. I love to travel and soak up the rich colours and cultures of other countries. I often put vibrant complimentary colours next to each other to make them pop. The colour is probably the most important element of the painting to me. I have always felt that I see in colour and shape rather than focussing on small details which I think comes across in my work. When I’m painting a city landmark, I think about the excitement and energy of the place to imagine what colours best describes the atmosphere. I often work with grey, poor quality photos as I prefer to use my imagination, rather than be too influenced by the reality. I mix most of my colours myself. However, I couldn’t be without Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Permanent Rose or Mixing White, which I always have to have a good stock of.
Clare: What kind of paper do you use? Is there any preparation that goes into it before you start painting?
Raina: I use either board or heavy weight acrylic paper as my base for sticking my collage design. I create my own hand painted papers using 200g cartridge paper which I find is the best texture and weight for tearing easily. Before I start painting, I tape my paper onto boards and paint an A2 sheet of each colour. I vary the tones and brush marks, being mindful of what each colour represents in my painting. By doing this preparation in a thoughtful way it gives me flexibility later at the collage stage and allows me to work intuitively with colour.
Clare: How have the events of the last couple of months affected your practice?
Raina: Apart from the obvious drawbacks of cancelled exhibitions and closed galleries, in many ways I have found lots of positives. My studio is in my home so I have been able to continue working throughout the lockdown period. I got involved with the Artist Support Pledge which was a great motivator, knowing that other ways of selling work was so limited at the time. I live in the countryside and had a heightened awareness of the stunning colours of spring during my walks which inspired a new series of paintings. With travel restrictions, I realised I had a problem photographing the landmark sites for my current series but then I made an amazing discovery that I can work from images that I find on Google Earth which transport me, magic carpet style, to close up views of any landmark in the world. I have recently completed a painting of The Statue of Liberty using this tool. I also appreciate the value of the internet and how easy it is to connect to a wider audience.
Clare: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Raina: For me, important tools are good quality large brushes, and scalpels with a supply of fresh blades.
Clare: What makes a good day in the studio for you?
Raina: When I’m in my studio, I put on my favourite music and try to prevent as many distractions as possible. I like to work for about five hours solidly to really get into the zone. I suppose a good day is feeling that the artwork is evolving the way I want it to and moving forward with a reasonable pace.
Clare: What are your art influences? Who are your favourite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Raina: Over the last decade, I have been lucky enough to have worked with Paul Regan, the amazing mentor at Insight School of Art. He has helped me to develop my art career, for which I am incredibly grateful. In 2017 I formed, ‘The London Painters and Sculptors Group’, a cooperative of artists who I had met and admired over the years. As friends and colleagues, we keep in touch regularly, sharing work and news and come together to exhibit as a group once a year. For me it is vital to have contact with other emerging artists for the creative energy and stimulation. I am a huge fan of Barbara Rae. I love her luscious, rich colours and how she reduces her landscapes to blocks of pattern and colour. I also admire David Hockney, particularly for his patterned landscapes, Tom Hammick’s beautiful, illustrative, paintings, Richard Diebenkorn’s huge California landscape and Matisse, who has inspired me from the very beginning, with his stunning use of colour, pattern and paper sculptures.
Clare: What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of your art in the flesh or online?
Raina: This has been a difficult year to plan for exhibitions. I had work selected for 208th Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours annual exhibition which can now be seen online at the Mall Galleries. I have had 3 paintings shortlisted for the New English Art Club annual exhibition which was also put on hold but I believe is now planned for November at the Mall Galleries.
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