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Marleen Pennings Interview

Continuing our series of interviews with the Artists who were due to be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead in May 2020 - gallery director Gina Cross asks contemporary painter Marleen Pennings a few questions about her work.

Marleen Pennings in her studio


GC: For those who may not know your work well yet - please can you tell us a bit about you as an artist and your working process and where you work at the moment.

MP: I studied Fashion Design and Illustration in the Netherlands and started painting out of curiosity, after I graduated. I liked it so much that I quit my job in fashion and concentrated fully on painting. Four years ago I moved to Germany. I arranged a studio in the attic of my house and found a job at the museum here.

Through this job and meeting other artists, I was asked to join the studio I’m currently working from. It’s a great space, about twenty minutes drive away from my home. It has beautiful lightning and more than enough space for me to work on several paintings at the same time. I share it with two painters, an illustrator and a sculptor.  Two or three days a week I work at the museum and teach painting, on the other days I’m in my studio painting.

 GC: What are you early art/design influences or movements and do you have contemporary artists that you admire/follow ? 

MP: As long as I can remember, I have a thing for textures and combining colours. It was when I studied Fashion Design that my love for textures, layering and colours grew stronger. 

I still enjoy looking at the fabrics and designs from designers such as Dries van Noten and Walter van Beirendonck for example.

Other longtime favourites are the works of Martin Parr, Vivian Sassen and John Baldessari.

And I get very happy when I look at the paintings and drawings of Fabian Treiber, Johan Kleinjan, Marguerite de Geus, Jenetta de Konink, Phoebe Unwin, Gerard Waskievitz and Guilherme Dable. 


Marleen Pennings at Gas Gallery London 

GC: You use a very distinctive colour palette in your work – how do you approach your use of colour and is it inspired by anything specific or is it more instinctive ?

I love the process of making new colours. I’m very precise about the colours I mix, I really think there is power in the nuances of the colours and how they are collaborating or collapsing in my work. I repaint certain parts multiple times with a colour just mixed lightly.

There are a few favourite colours, which I always have in my collection and as time proceeds, and my work too, I see the combinations change. For a few years, I painted with a lot of contrast. I used my base colour scheme and then black, a lot of black. It’s interesting for me to see the gradual changes that are developing throughout my work. 

Marleen Pennings Gas Gallery


Now I’m not using black anymore. It started as an experiment a little while ago, and it has really brought me to some new way of painting. When I want to make contrasts in a painting now, I mix my own black, which turned out to be more soft, natural and in tune with the rest of the colours. Or make the contrast work in other ways.

I don’t have a lot of different colour tubes to paint from, but a lot of favourite colour recipes to mix by hand. I usually paint with four, maybe five colours and the rest I mix with these same colours. I don’t want to lose the cohesion which exists through this process. I find it more balancing to mix a colour from the existing palette, rather than squeezing it readymade out of a tube.   

GC: How do your paintings manifest in the studio – do you work on more than one at once – tell us more about your working processes and what’s important to you when you’re in the studio.  

MP: When I’m in the studio, I’m working on several paintings during a longer period of time, some are finished sooner than others. There's always a bit of shifting.

Most of the time I listen to podcasts while I paint. It's very relaxing.

I start by looking at what I painted last time and decide how I can continue, which colours have to be adjusted, adding new layers, building on the ever changing perspective and layering.

I like the confrontation in abstract work. 

When I need a break from it though, I begin painting a small streetscape. Whenever I see a beautiful building, a barn, window or feeder pillar for example, I take a picture and use these as a starting-point for the little streetscape paintings on wood.

I like both, very different, processes and techniques. I can get lost in both just as easily. 

GC: How has the lockdown been for you - has it changed anything of how you work ?

MP: The lockdown hasn’t changed that much for me. The studio is a big space, enough for 4 people and distancing and not everybody is there at the same time. 

But because everything was so unsure in the beginning, I picked up some paint, brushes and palettes from my studio and started to paint from my home. 

After a few weeks I started to miss my studio and moved everything back again. Now I’m working from there again. Every time I’m arriving in my studio, I realize that I’m very lucky to have such a nice space to work from in these crazy times.

GC: You mentioned about developing a painting course – are you able to tell us more about that ?

MP: Since three years I give paint courses in cooperation with the City College. My plan is to give courses at my studio also, maybe together with my fellow artists also. But because of the lockdown the plan is postponed and for now I’m sticking with the courses I give at the City College. At the end of this month will be the first course since the lockdown. 

GC: Thanks Marleen for taking the time to chat. We're really excited about showing your new works for the show!


To view all of Marleen's work please visit the collection here: