Annika Connor Revisited

Annika Connor
Photo courtesy Devon Banks

On an early spring afternoon, I visited rising star Annika Connor* at her light and spacious studio located next to The London Hotel in New York City. I was taken by her joyful and charming personality, as she served up traditional English tea, while sharing her passion for the good life: fine gourmet food, fashion, entertainment, and her thought provoking, yet romantic watercolors.

"I love food, and think it relates to painting. That is also one of the many reasons why I enjoy cooking. I think about cooking the same way that I think about color, the complimentary flavors, the unusual combinations... Red and Green are complimentary colors, So if I make pasta salad, it will be with chili and mints for an added surprise..." Annika Connor 

High End Weekly™: Your watercolors look like actual oil on canvas. Did you start out painting with oil?
Annika Connor: I started painting with watercolor in 2003 when I was living in London but away from the studio for an extended period of time. Originally my watercolors were to be studies for larger oil paintings , however they eventually became so rich and worked I slowly recognized them as paintings in their own right. Because I never studied watercolor in college, I started painting them like oils which made for a very nontraditional approach to the medium. I approached it the same way that I did with my oil paintings: I built up layers and glazes and payed close attention to the details. From the very beginning, I’ve spent a lot of time working on all my paintings. I wanted give the viewers a haze of magic and leave them with a sense of rhythm and significant pattern.

Annika Connor, Blue Room

HEW: Your work has this real romantic feeling to it. Was that purposeful or did that just happen spontaneously?
AC: It's a combination of the two. I made a conscious decision to not overly conceptualize my work, and let my true voice speak for itself. I am naturally a day dreamer, a romantic, highly imaginative, and a very girly girl. I love dancing, art, great books, good food, and I adore fashion; this comes through in my paintings. In my art I embrace my romantic sensibilities. I push this so my paintings will spark my viewer’s imaginations. I want to encourage the world to day dream more, to seek beauty, and to feel the poetry in the day to day.

Annika Connor, Fan Coral

HEW: Speaking of inspiration, I can see through your paintings that you are an admirer of great architecture. Did you ever think of going into design or architecture?
AC: Sometimes I can be jealous of architecture because it is an art form where you can literally exist in it. You cannot ignore it, architecture has such a strong impact. When I visit spaces that are beautifully designed, whether they are from the Rococo era, or modern interiors, I feel so moved and inspired by them. I would love to collaborate with an architect one day on a space. For now I am just starting to dip my toes in the design world. I recently had the opportunity to designing some wallpapers and textiles. I was approached by Cavern, who worked with me to develop a line of wallpaper and upholstery fabrics.

For one of the Chandy wallpaper pattern we developed a design which comes in two color variations and which is inspired by my chandelier paintings. To create this, we literally took the chandeliers out of
my paintings, reduced them down to four colors, silk screened them, and created a cascading pattern of chandeliers. Go here to see. This was a really exciting project for me as it gave me the chance to bring my art into a space in a new way. In the past my paintings have been inspired by the patterns and spaces i see, now my paintings are decorating new spaces by making patterns for them. I loved the symmetry in this.

"Lottie" available in a light beige linen background in gold and silver colorways
Fabric, wallpaper and pillow, designed by Annika Connor for Cavern Home

HEW: All of the interior designers that I've shown your work prior to this interview absolutely loved it. The interiors that you paint lend themselves to art collectors as well. Now that I see your textile designs, I'm wondering if this is something you'd like to do regularly. Do you want to start licensing your own work to various textile companies? 
AC: Sure! Why not? I love the idea of one idea inspiring another. One day I would like to collaborate and do greeting cards, create patterns for fashion textiles, or design more home decor. I'm on the fashion committee of the National Art Club, and see a huge connection between my art and my love of fashion. The arts often divide themselves into separate categories: design, fashion, fine arts, dance, etc but I see them as very inter-connected. If licensing my work could help me link to other forms of art I would jump at that. I really admire the way Gustav Klimt made that connection with his paintings, decor, clothing, etc and would be happy to follow in his footsteps and do the same.
In my dream world, I could definitely see a painting like my King Angel Fish working as a gorgeous print for a Diane von Fusternberg dress, and I would gladly welcome the chance to collaborate more in this way. As a painter I am interested in visual communication. If opening the door to licensing my art in new ways, gives people a chance to be exposed to painting in a manner they can relate to then great! Honestly, one of the things that I don't like about the art world is how exceedingly elitist it is. The gallery can seem so inaccessible to many people. Often times even affluent highly educated individuals can be intimidated by the art world if they are not well versed in art history and art theory. This is a shame. One should be able to look at art and on some level feel a connection regardless if you have studied art. I really want to make art which makes these connections, the goal is to one day make art that will move the audience to feel something wonderful. I want to make paintings which spark the imagination, which reach beyond the white walls to speak to a wider world.

Annika Connor, The Love Joy Approach

HEW: Are you still working on oil paintings? And is there a gallery in NYC who is currently showing your artwork?
AC: I occasionally still do an oil painting when I want to work large, but i am primarily interested in watercolor these days. You can see my work at http://www.fordproject.com/artists/annika-connor.

HEW: How do you view your overall work?
AC: Collectively, my work is all about beauty, the feminine aesthetic, the celebration of the imagination, memories, and daydreams.

HEW: Do you get inspired living in New York City?
AC: Of course! How could one not be! I love this city and all it offers! My work is shaped so much by living in the city. It is like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing in Autumn in New York.My studio is in the heart of Midtown and I am surrounded by offices, hotels, and these canyons of steel. New Yorkers are such hard workers. The drive and ambition in this city is an inspiration and helps to keep me motivated. However, I also love how this hard working city is when it relaxes and plays. New York is a city of celebration and champagne. When this town kicks back it does it in style, with a ball gown and a tuxedo. I love it! I think New Yorker’s love of glamour is wonderful. A night at the opera, the ballet, out dancing, or simply enjoy great art happens at least once a week for almost all young Manhattanites. New York City is so generous and supportive of the art and institutions they admire. It is the generosity of spirit that makes this city so special. More then any grants or government programs it is the citizens of this city who create and cultivate the culture. Perhaps it was Le Corbusier who summed it up best when he said “Vehement silhouettes of Manhattan-that vertical city with unimaginable diamonds”.

In addition to being a painter, Annika Connor is the Owner/President of Active Ideas Productions (AIP) which was launched in 2008. Active Ideas Productions is an innovative organization committed to the education, distribution, and development of emerging artists and the art community. AI Productions explores the intersection of art as a business and discovers innovative ways in which artists can collaborate to manufacture their creative endeavors while giving them a platform for artistic excellence.

For more information on Annika Connor please visit www.annikaconnor.com, her Facebook Fan Page at www.facebook.com/AnnikaConnorArtist. Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnnikaConnor, and Active Ideas Productions: www.aiproductions.org. Active Ideas Productions is also on Facebook and Twitter at: https://www.facebook.com/ActiveIdeasProductionswww.twitter.com/ActiveIdea.

Annika Connor, Lagoon

Images courtesy Annika Connor
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