Paula MacArthur

I see my work as a contemporary interpretation of traditional memento mori & vanitas painting. 

I hunt in historical buildings, museums & churches for still life objects which resonate with me in some way, selecting things which are powerfully evocative and elicit a physical response; a tingle, a gasp, a gut feeling. 

I photograph my discoveries from multiple viewpoints in an attempt to capture the entire object, afraid to miss a vital detail & back in the studio, selecting from my vast accumulated archive, I digitally manipulate the photos to maximise each image‚Äôs unique qualities, intensifying the drama I experienced on discovering the object. I focus on the essential details, scaling up onto canvas, working with oils; bold colour in thin glazes which stay wet for long enough for me to draw and redraw until something of the original experience is found. The liquid paint drips down the canvas creating a sense of impermanence, a sense of time passing, of lives lived. Through continual refining and adjustments the resulting work is evocative of my original experience; stripped back to the essentials the image partially disassociates from the original object and opens up to allow new interpretations. 


Paula MacArthur trained at The Royal Academy Schools where she was awarded the RA Schools Prize for Painting & now works from her studio in Rye, East Sussex.

Solo exhibitions include Verse at Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks in 2018 & Infinitely Precious Things at VJB Arts, 60 Threadneedle Street in 2015. Group exhibitions include Made in Britain – Gdansk 2019, PaintLounge – Berlin 2018, Slippery & Amorphous – London & NYC 2016, Zeitgeist Open 2014, 20 Painters – Phoenix Brighton 2014, Open West 2013 – Newark Park & Wilson Art Gallery Cheltenham, The Perfect Nude – Wimbledon Space, Exeter Phoenix & Charlie Smith London 2012, What The Folk Say – Compton Verney 2011.

In 1993 Paula was a prizewinner at John Moores 18 & in 1989 she won the NPG John Player Portrait Award. Her work is held in several permanent collections including Jiangsu Museum of Art – China, Goodnestone Park, Kent, Priseman Seabrook Collection, National Portrait Gallery, London , Baron & Baroness von Oppenheim

artist’s website