Interviewed by Louise Cameron

Louise  Have you always been interested in creating art?
Ilona  I think I have always been interested in creating - not necessarily art but in making across the board, be it writing, theatre, invention, language, code, acting... Becoming an artist was something I felt I needed to earn, to be worthy of in a sense, and as such it took a while to fully 'own' the role.

Louise  How did your time at Oxford, studying English, inform your work as an artist?
Ilona Studying English literature has informed my work hugely. I work with narrative. The story may only be for me (and not explicitly in the pictures), but it is important for my process - it's the hook that allows me in and keeps me interested. I need some sort of emotional or psychological context in which to float the work. The act of physically creating an image is very important to me. There is a rare combining of intellect, physicality and emotion in making paintings - it's an activity which engages all three. I crave it. I have always made drawings and began to realize that this form of art (visual) was where my core interest lay.

Louise  What was the atmosphere like at art college, was it free and creative, or did you have a formal training in drawing??
Ilona Art school was inspiring. I was taught extremely well. It combined both formal training in skills with an opening up of the mind ... it's more about learning a way of thinking. There is rigor to it, but it is creative, inquisitive and lateral. There is a continuous honing process which occurs, and perhaps the most important of all - a pulling out of 'the voice'...

Louise  Was there ever a period when you painted in a representational figurative way?
Ilona I began, as everyone does, by emulating what I saw around me in other artists. Life drawing allowed me to start training my eye to look and record, but then that can, later on, be subverted and played with in infinite different ways. My early work was very straightforwardly figurative, there's a safety there for most people. Once confidence has developed, risks are taken and new things can emerge.

Louise  Which artists influenced you when you were at art college?
Ilona At art college I looked at the work of Tony Oursler, whose projections influenced me enormously - I was very taken by the pathos and hysteria of his work, as well as the childlike simplicity of the technical aspect. I was influenced by the drawings of Raymond Pettibon, Nancy Spero, Jake and Dinos Chapman, William Kentridge ... amongst others. I became interested in how many ways of seeing and drawing there are, an unlearning of 'right' and 'wrong' and studying the inspirational daring of all these artists.

Louise  Which artists inspire and inform your work today?
Ilona In no particular order I really love the work of Philip Guston, Goya, Nathalie Djurberg, Kara Walker, Louise Bourgeois, David Shrigley, Mamma Anderson there are so many influences.

Louise  How many days a week, hours a day, are you able to devote to painting?
Ilona I work Monday-Friday mornings, and then I must attend to my children! But I am very lucky I can do that.

Louise  Your work is continually evolving. Can you explain how you have moved forward since you last exhibited with the Project Gallery in 2014.
Ilona I think, I hope, that I am becoming braver in my work. It's funny, as a female artist I do feel that I have been cultured to be perhaps more timid and less ambitious that my male counterparts, there is an insiduous conditioning to 'think smaller' in many ways, as a woman. My intention is to cast off this limiting construct and allow my work to embrace the limitlessness available to it. This involves delegating and farming out some tasks out of necessity, so there is possibly less control.
Ilona My work is also becoming more openly auto biographical, the codes are falling away ... The language is more direct. I think this is to do with confidence and a trusting in the process, also a trust in the viewer. And again that sense of entitlement about taking up a transgressive or 'unusual' space. Not worrying too much about how the work will be received by others but instead honing ones inner critic, relying on it more.

Louise  And finally, could you explain a little bit about your working practices, the choice of materials, surfaces on which you work, the colours you choose?
Ilona I use a lot of glass and resined surfaces in my paintings as I like the way they hold the paint, or allow it to do different things. These materials allow for rapidity when working and for multiple pictures to be made and cancelled - the surface can literally be wiped clean and I can begin again - this takes the pressure off. There are infinite pictures that can be made and I like the idea of that, there is no fixed outcome ever. Everything is dependent on the materials, physical conditions and particulars of that moment in time when the hand touches the surface. The image is shaped this way, spontaneously, unpredictably - again and again.

Louise  Thank you so much for the time and thought you have given to answering these questions. There is no doubt that the information you have given, will inform the viewer, and result in a deeper appreciation of what you are doing, on many levels.

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Project Gallery
63 High Street Arundel
West Sussex BN18 9AJ
Exhibiting Contemporary Art