The Cut of Your Gib

Zealous Stories: Painting 2022 winner Amy Dury is an artist based in Hove, specialising in oil painting. Her paintings explore nostalgia and the false memories it sparks through a use of archival film and imagery as a reference.

The Other Half by Amy Dury

Congratulations on winning Zealous Stories: Painting! Your works explore innocence, freedom, friendship, and family through expressive oil paintings. Where did the inspiration come from for these pieces?

I started working with vintage photos as a way to be able to paint figures and faces that have an emotive, nostalgic charge. I am influenced by the carefree and happy times gone past whilst we have been in the grip of the pandemic, which has accelerated our isolation and further dramatic changes of society. Imagine piling on a sofa with a group of friends now! It’s a sad sense of longing for the past, however sometimes we know a photograph does not tell the whole story, and in some of my paintings I hope to convey a tension or darkness that seemingly happy shots of families and friends are concealing just beneath the surface. We can’t trust nostalgia….

The Cut of Your Gib by Amy Dury

The piece ‘The Cut of Your Gib’ in particular feels so alive. I really get the sense of a group of friends all piling on the sofa, trying to get in a photo together. What is your process when creating a painting like this?

The process begins by the search for images – there are several image banks and archives that I look through, and often use old home movies to find never before captured stills from the past. I trust my instinct to settle on images that have an impact on me emotionally and also assess if I think I can it as a painting. Vintage photos and films often have discolouration that suggest colour schemes already – this one has a very strong orange tint that you often find with photos taken indoors. I usually use photoshop, or sometime colour pencils, to work out what I might change or adapt, but this photo was pretty much all there to use as it was. So, I started with a strong orange background and as I painted, I decided which parts to leave as pure orange – so there is an unfinished feel to the piece. I have always liked unfinished paintings – I like a painting to be a painting, not a photograph, and am enjoying more and more the exploration of texture, mark and flights of fancy in my paintings.

Girls on the Corner by Amy Dury

You studied BA Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art, and then MA Fine Art at the University of Brighton. How has your time at art school impacted your practice?

I chose printmaking as I had really enjoyed trying it on foundation, I think I was under confident in not choosing painting, which was my real interest, but there is no room for regrets! I think many of my ideas of colour and background have come from my years of screen printing – working backwards, thinking of layers and colour, and in screen printing I used photographs I found so it’s really all the same thing! I loved being at Glasgow, as much for the people and the city as the art education. I don’t think people need to go to art school to do art, but its an invaluable time of growth on many levels.

God Bless Strawberry Jam by Amy Dury

I really enjoyed your livestream portrait painting session for the Tate Instagram, in which you painted Cornelia Parker for International Women’s Day. How did this come about?

I had painted several portraits of my friends over lockdown and posted them on Instagram. However, it was a portrait I had made of the actress Nicola Coughlan that I did as part of the Internet series “Portrait Artist of the Week’ that got reposted to Nicola’s one million followers, that caught the eye of the Tate. They liked my series of my female friends and thought I would be a good fit to do a livestream for International Women’s day, celebrating one of their female artists in their collection. I painted Cornelia Parker from a photograph, but she joined in the chat over the two hours that I painted away in my studio, unaware that some 45k people were watching – and over 250k have since watched! I think I would have been too nervous to paint if I had known this!

Waiting by Amy Dury

It is great to see you have been involved in so many different projects and exhibitions, such as Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year ’21. What piece of advice would you give to emerging creatives?

Having breast cancer just over a year ago was a huge motivation for me to get on and work hard. I was fortunate to be treated quickly and successfully but it gave me perspective. My studio is my dining room – if I have 15 minutes, I’ll do something for 15 minutes. I get one or two days a week to spend more time there, around my full-time job as an art teacher. You have to find the time. It is there. I work hard and make a lot of bad paintings. Be prepared to make bad things all the time. Every painting will teach you something!  So, keep doing it and put yourself out there – every opportunity may lead to new things.

Together by Amy Dury

Is there anything you’re working on right now? Do you have plans to show your work anytime soon?

Yes, I’m working on a whole new series of paintings, using images from Sussex amateur cine movies – lots of scouts! I have found lots of great footage of scout camps that allow me to paint multiple figures in more complex compositions which I have been really enjoying. These will be showing an exhibition at Cameron Contemporary Gallery here in Hove between March 5-20th.

To view more of Amy’s work, you can visit her website or Instagram.

Written by


Bethan Jayne Goddard

Community Manager

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