Interview with Aleah Chapin

by Tuesday, October 28, 2014

22Hello Aleah, first of all, tell us something about your upcoming work. What are you into at the moment?

I’ve pretty much always painted women, but inspired by a few close friends and family, I’ve begun to explore gender. This work will be shown at Gusford Gallery in LA fall 2015, which I’m very excited about!

(Left Image: Lucy and Laszlo 2,  2014)

I can clearly appreciate how much better your technique is becoming, especially for the light and the skin texture. Could you tell me some about your recent progressions? 

I think I’ve just been trying to ‘see’ more and spend a longer time with each piece. There are always avenues in which to grow and I never want to rest on what I have done before. So with every painting I do, I try to get better. This doesn’t always happen of course, but it’s the intention and is extremely important in keeping things interesting in the studio.


1Chapin_Aleah_UntitledWould you give a brief walk through your workflow? I mean starting from scratches to the final painting.

Well I begin by taking photographs. Hundreds of them. I want the energy of the painting to come from the person I am painting and in an honest way, directly from the individual. So I try to make space to discover and explore instead of forcing my own ideas on my models. I think it has become my way of sketching. After I’ve discovered the image that resonates with me, I just begin painting. With the large pieces, I will use a 1ft x 1ft grid to get the basic composition on the canvas, then I dive in, getting the “drawing” in with paint. Once I feel good about where everything is on the canvas, I begin with full color and build it up layer by layer. I often find myself going back and forth between tiny brushes and controlled marks, to bigger, loose washes, letting the paint really have a say. I do this until the painting feels alive.

(Right Image: The air was full, 2014)

Jenny Saville is one of the artists we love here at Hyde, and I have no difficulty to compare your artworks to her great paintings, do you feel inspired in a way by her? 

Yes, absolutely! I really love her work and she has been an inspiration for years. There is something about the raw emotion and tactility of paint that I have always been drawn to. She’s also an awesome female artist and a great example of what is possible.


I didn’t find any male nude in your production, is that a precise choice or something you do not control? 

I’ve been asked this question many times, but still don’t necessarily have a good answer. Perhaps because as a woman, I can relate? And also as a woman, I really want to see more honest representations of what we look like, so why not make them. I’m just beginning a body of where where I will be expanding beyond the female body, and I’m excited to see where it takes me!


Chapin_Aleah_LaughHow has your work evolved over the years from when you were beginning?

I have always been in love with painting the body, even as a kid, I wanted to draw and paint people. I think my work has become simpler over the years. When I was in college, I found that I tried to put too many ideas into every painting. I wanted them to say big, important things. This is all good, except that I don’t think it worked. I’ve discovered that the only way to really make work that I feel good about is to focus on what I know. I don’t want to limit my ideas with a moral agenda that I can’t relate to in a gut way. I’m learning to create a structure that breaths where I can let the work grow and speak on its own, and through this, teach me things that I didn’t know.

(Left Image: Laugh, 2011)

Who’s the first painter that comes to your mind in a second? 

Emmet Gowin. Not a painter though, but I love photography!


Chapin_Aleah_TheTempestSomething you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to.

Walk the Camino de Santiago and build my own house (and studio of course).

(Right Image: The Tempest, 2013)

Something you want the world to know about you.

I’m going to get a bit serious here. Probably that I never want to create work that is disrespectful or offensive. I’ve been told that my work can scare or offend sometimes, but I want people to know that that is never my intention. But I also don’t want to play it safe. I want to push boundaries and force us to see our own bodies in a different way.


Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.

Maybe when people give up too easily, not realizing their own potential. Good things come after a lot of hard work, some blood and quite a few tears.


Chapin_Aleah_Jumanji&GwenYour idea about social networks.

They can be an amazing way to share ideas, art and provide a bridge between completely different people from all over the world. This is pretty incredible. But I also think social networks can become overwhelming and we can lose sight of what is actually important. And social networks also don’t like nude art. I’ve had my work deleted a few times and find that pretty frustrating.

(en: check Aleah’s Fb page here)

(Left Image: Jumanji and Gwen, 2014)


What’s overrated/underrated today?

We overrate how we appear and underrate who we are.



All the images © Aleah Chapin, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York.

Aleah Chapin has a current exhibition titled “Maiden, Mother, Child and Crone” at Flowers Gallery in London until 8 November 2014. Flowers Gallery, 21 Cork Street, London.

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