Published: 16 April 2021

'Flux' by Patsy McArthur opens at Thompson's London on 27 April, the first exhibition to welcome viewers back to the gallery in person. Ahead of this debut solo with Thompson's, McArthur gives an exclusive interview reflecting on her early artistic influences, the cultural scene in Brighton, in-person vs online art viewing, and more.

Above: Patsy McArthur in her Brighton studio - photo courtesy of the artist

Thompson's Gallery: 'Flux' opens on 27th April at Thompson's London - the first exhibition where doors are open to the public again! What are your thoughts on experiencing art in person, vs online as we've had to for so long? Generally but also as pertains to your body of work for 'Flux'.

Patsy McArthur: I'm thrilled that my show will be the first 'real life' exhibition in such a long time! While there have been many clever and helpful tech tools adopted by galleries and museums to enable us to better experience art online, there really is no substitute for being in front of the real thing physically.

With my own realist, figurative work, I think it definitely helps to get up close to it. My drawings are much looser and more gestural than they look in reproduction or on screens. Drawing is such a visceral activity and charcoal such a physical medium that looking at a drawing in real life is a very different experience.

Art doesn't get much more direct than a drawing, and for that reason, drawings are emotional things. You can see where I've wiped back with a rag, or smudged with a sponge or rubber or just left a beautiful velvety layer of compressed charcoal or black pastel on the surface without rubbing in. These nuances don't translate to a screen or a thumbnail, or even a hard copy catalogue image.

Above: Patsy McArthur in her Brighton studio - photo courtesy of the artist

Thompson's Gallery: What do you find most challenging when executing a piece? What is the most enjoyable, or fun?

Patsy McArthur: A drawing for me starts with an idea, then a photoshoot for reference material and then into the studio to think about compositions and to make the work. Really the most challenging are the decisions around the reference photoshoot: Where to do it; what time of day for light; who to use as a model? And quite often that means in the sea or in a pool in the UK in winter if I'm making water works; sometimes even below the surface with snorkel and mask and underwater camera; sometimes it means finding some very brave individuals who can jump between buildings or trampoline to great heights !

Since my work generally references the figure in motion, I am often shooting video as well as stills to work from. Although the shoots are often fun too, I'm most in my element when I'm back on my own in the studio, working on large drawings.

For me, making drawings from video or photos isn't about copying those images, it's about taking what you need from them and turning them into something else through the very intuitive drawing process. That's when it all comes together, and I see the results of those decisions and the thinking and get to thoroughly enjoy the medium and the markmaking – heaven !

Thompson's Gallery: What or who inspired you to become an artist? Could you share advice for anyone reading this who aspires to the same path?

Patsy McArthur: From a very young age I loved to draw. I was very introverted and drawing was an escape into my own world. I come from a family of lawyers, and my parents were horrified as I got progressively artier as I grew up ! It was probably exactly this reaction, if I'm completely honest, that drove me to art school. I dug my heels in and fought hard to go, which was good practice, because if you want to have a career as an artist, tenacity is probably the number one characteristic you're going to need ! My advice to aspiring artists is to have self-belief, work hard to improve and to keep learning and to recognize the importance of building community and relationships with peers and art world professionals. It can be such a solitary existence, and I've really struggled with that. I'm not much for networking, but these days social media is a wonderful tool for artists - not only for promoting yourself but for connecting with other artists and sharing experience. Connection is everything !

Above: Patsy McArthur in her Brighton studio - photo courtesy of the artist

Thompson's Gallery: You're based in Brighton - what is the best part of living and working there? What are some highlights of the local arts and culture scene, in your opinion?

Patsy McArthur: I've lived in Brighton for the last ten years, although I'm originally from the West coast of Scotland. The best thing about living here is without a doubt being on the coast and having that sense of space and light. Just a few months ago, we moved to a flat right on the beach and I can't describe how happy it makes me to open the shutters and watch the sea and sky in the morning. Every day the conditions are so different, and every sunrise and sunset I watch the swimmers and sometimes I join them.

There's a big sea swimming community in Brighton, and the beach comes alive with activity pretty early. There's also a large number of artists and musicians here and sunsets in the summer are special with DJs playing sets on the beach. The arts festival in May is an amazing thing, with comedians and musicians playing at venues all over the city. It's a relaxed, diverse and beautiful place to live, I love it.


'Flux' will exhibit from 27 April - 15 May 2021 at Thompson's Gallery, 3 Seymour Place London W1H5AZ. View the entire exhibition online HERE, and get in touch with interest and questions by email or telephone +44(0)2079353595.