British Painter Makes L.A. Debut with Dark, Dreamy Portraits

Artwork: Detail from Shadow of the Seventh, Mary Jane Ansell. Oil on aluminium panel, 32 x 32 inches.

There’s something eerie about Mary Jane Ansell’s paintings. The elegant portraits feel both touchable and removed, look realistic yet airbrushed, and are reminiscent of a bygone era but with a decidedly modern bent. Her models’ intense gazes evoke a come-hither attitude and encourage inappropriately long stints of staring. The animal friends featured in the paintings act as feathery, furry accessories. Though Ansell’s artwork is undeniably beautiful, there are secretive, almost sinister undertones to the pieces.

Now through July 8, you can see Ansell’s all-new masterpieces up close at Los Angeles’ Corey Helford Gallery. Though Of Dreams, Birds, and Bones is her seventh solo exhibition, it’s her first in L.A.

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Regarding this collection, Ansell says, “The genesis of ideas often takes place in the shadowy in-between of sleep and wakefulness. Images emerge alongside a long forgotten refrain from a childhood rhyme (‘one for sorrow, two for joy…’). Waking more, the radio tunes to another news flash, reports of momentous and confusing times. Thoughts grasped, then lost, as opposing forces pull back the tides (‘three for a girl, four for a boy’). Work begins and life has other plans; they feed in, inevitably (‘five for silver, six for gold’). The paintings become respite and a place of healing (‘seven for a secret never to be told’). The months etched in oils, they reveal their own language and transcend it.”

Photo: Mary Jane Ansell.

Painter Mary Jane Ansell. Photo provided by the Corey Helford Gallery.

This show is dedicated to her late mother, Kate Ansell, who died in 2016.

Born in England in 1972, Ansell is a Brighton, UK-based artist who has exhibited internationally. She was selected four times for London’s BP National Portrait Award, has been recognized by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and was selected for the Threadneedle Prize. Her work has been featured extensively on the covers of magazines, novels, and twice on Adam Ant’s album Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter.

Her work is included in private and public collections worldwide, including the National Portrait Gallery London and the Brighton and Hove Museums UK.

Here’s a preview of the exhibition:

Artwork: Mary Jane Ansell.