Petra Schott won the Abstract Award in the Jackson’s Painting Prize this year with her work And Then She Decided to Take a Bath. In this interview, she discusses unexpectedly reconnecting with art, dancing in her studio, and how her work changes with the seasons.
Above image: Petra explaining her work
Artist Interview with Petra Schott
Josephine: Could you tell us about your artistic background? How did you become an artist?
Petra: I transitioned into the realm of artistry unexpectedly during my first law exam. Amidst the stress of that period, I found myself yearning for a hands-on outlet that didn’t require constant contemplation. This led me to unearth my collection of watercolour paints. Reconnecting with these vibrant pigments brought me immense delight, and from that point onward, I wholeheartedly embraced the world of painting as a part of my journey.
Josephine: What’s your relationship with colour and how do you decide on the colour palette of a painting?
Petra: I rely on my intuition when selecting colours and embarking on a new painting. Frequently, my affection for particular hues persists across multiple works. Presently, amidst the balmy weeks of summer, my canvases are infused with vibrant reds, while the subdued tones dominate my art in the winter months. My faith in my intuition is resolute; I might even mistakenly reach for what I believe to be a blue, only to discover it’s green — yet I embrace it regardless. This practice primarily holds true for the initial layers. As the painting progresses towards its final form, I become progressively more deliberate in my colour application.
Josephine: What materials or tools could you not live without? Do you use anything unconventional?
Petra: My selection of tools adheres to conventional options, primarily relying on an array of brushes in varying sizes. On occasions, I incorporate rags to strategically remove specific pigments, unveiling the underlying colours in select areas. Additionally, I occasionally employ sewing or adhesive techniques to affix elements onto the canvas. Also, I sometimes use my fingers. However, these techniques encompass the extent of my artistic toolkit.
Josephine: Your award-winning painting is an homage to Pierre Bonnard and his paintings of his wife taking a bath. Do you imagine a scene when painting, and blur it to the point of abstraction, or are you painting a depiction of something intangible e.g., a feeling?
Petra: In the award-winning painting titled ‘And Then She Decided to Take a Bath,’ I envisioned a scene akin to what Pierre Bonnard might have beheld. However, my canvas became a vessel for my own emotions and concepts intertwined with the act of bathing. While the colour palette diverges from Bonnard’s, the scene itself assumes an abstract form—though observant eyes might discern the graceful contour of a body submerging into a bathtub, accompanied by subtle hints of personal articles, evoking an intimate atmosphere.
Josephine: How do you deal with artist’s block or moments of creative stagnation during the painting process?
Petra: Experiencing creative block is a rarity for me, owing to my engagement with oil paints and my practice of concurrently working on multiple pieces. Upon entering my studio, there’s usually at least one painting — or more — that beckons with ideas for progression. Yet, if a rare instance of blockage emerges, I peruse the works of artists I hold in high esteem through catalogues – or I begin to dance in my studio. This simple act often kindles the spark of inspiration anew.
Josephine: How do you find the balance between conscious decision-making and spontaneity in your process?
Petra: The interplay between intuitive painting and conscious decision-making is a captivating journey for me. Describing this process adequately often proves challenging. I commence with my favoured colours, guided by intuition, letting the canvas evolve naturally. From there, it’s a dance of assessment: liking what emerges, modifying or layering anew if not. When working on larger canvases, I adopt a gradual approach—applying paint judiciously, allowing intervals for drying, then revisiting with fresh eyes. As layers accumulate, I take a deliberate pause to pinpoint what’s needed. It might entail a bolder form, heightened contrast, an additional hue, or delicate lines. This intricate phase defies straightforward explanation. Regardless, I persist until the artwork resonates with a harmonious vitality that speaks to me.
Josephine: Which historical or contemporary artists have influenced you the most?
Petra: The artistic currents of Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, Leiko Ikemura, Martha Jungwirth, and Frank Bowling have profoundly shaped my creative path. These painters, among others, have ignited my admiration and artistic resonance.
Josephine: How was your experience taking part in Jackson’s Painting Prize’s first independent large-scale exhibition at Bankside Gallery?
Petra: Participating in the opening was truly a remarkable experience, and I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity. The Bankside Gallery is an exceptional venue, and being present to witness the collection of award-winning and shortlisted artworks was an exquisite delight.
Josephine: How do you know when a painting is finished?
Petra: Determining the completion of a painting is a nuanced challenge. Occasionally, I grant it a pause for a few days, allowing clarity to emerge. Other times, I continue and recognize a misstep later. Starting a new similar piece and mirroring its progress aids my decision-making process. Yet, in many instances, certainty arises unexpectedly. Like a gentle revelation, I step back, and there it is— undeniably finished.