angela kilenyi
Angela Kilenyi

I always wanted to be an artist from a very young age, that is until the age of 16 when I went to Paris. Then everything changed. Paris was such a shock to the system, you can’t imagine. This was in the sixties when no one had heard of yogurt and we didn’t know what to do with an avocado, least of all in the Welsh mining valleys where I was brought up. Indeed you could only buy olive oil from the chemist when you need to syringe your ears. Paris blew me away and as a result I found the whole idea of other cultures captivating. For that reason I knew I wanted a job involving travel and that meant switching from a degree in art to languages, much to the chagrin of my Slade-trained art mistress.

I studied French and Italian and then embarked on a career in international finance, not, may I say, that I had any real interest in finance. I just wanted to travel and travel I did… to Francophone West Africa, the Far East, the Communist Bloc, as it was then, and even the Middle East.

Anyway to come back to art, I effectively put my art plans on hold for more than 30 years until at the ripe old age of 46 when I decided to retire from the City. I looked round for drawing possibilities and, like many other RAS members, I joined a course at RACC. It was a watercolour course led by the lovely Mariella Woolff with whom I am still in contact.

I had also started to draw with a group of very talented artists who met locally in one of the artists’ garden shed which was large enough to accommodate 6 of us plus a model. Initially I found this very intimidating, not only because of the ability of all the others but also the fact that each pose was no longer than 10 minutes. What a baptism of fire this was. However, I persevered and subsequently I joined Francis Bowyer’s life drawing masterclasses at RACC which were hugely beneficial, and stimulating.

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Soon after starting life drawing I was persuaded to apply to RAS for exhibiting status. I can remember to this day how worried I was when opening the letter and how relieved I was when I read that I had been accepted. The first time I exhibited with the society a gallery owner came to the exhibition and then got in touch with me and asked if I would exhibit in his gallery. Can you imagine how excited I felt? I could hardly sleep. It was Andrew Blythe who had just opened the Fountain Gallery in East Molesey, across the road from Hampton Court Palace.

This was the start of a long and fruitful relationship. I sold regularly through the gallery which eventually changed to a cooperative where individual artists show their work for set periods during the year.

I had many group and solo shows at the gallery and found it very satisfying to be in direct contact with the buyers. As a result of my connection with the Gallery I was asked by a major US pharmaceutical company to put forward ideas for a work depicting how it felt to be a sufferer from a particular auto immune condition. This involved meeting a particular sufferer and then devising an art work. This was part of a worldwide event involving something like a hundred artists and my work was lucky enough to be chosen for an exhibition which travelled the world.

In tandem with the gallery activity I have run life drawing workshops in Teddington and Twickenham for the last 15 years. This has been extremely enjoyable and has formed the basis of my stock of art for sale. My preferred medium for life drawing is ink as I like the immediacy and the feeling of spontaneity it brings. I occasionally work in acrylics but ink is definitely my preferred medium for figures. It stops the work from being too “finished”.

This year however I have decided to give life drawing something of a break and concentrate on landscapes. My aim is to work in oils, the complete opposite of working in ink. We shall see if I manage it. Fingers crossed!

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