Stay meets: contemporary artist Annya Sand / Art , Culture , Design
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Stay meets: contemporary artist Annya Sand

The Mayfair-based creative talks new perspectives

The Mayfair-based creative talks new perspectives

Annya Sand is a contemporary artist, known for her abstract style.  Specialising in oil, mixed media and large-scale installations, she has exhibited her work everywhere from private collections, to international art fairs, and global institutions such the Houses of Parliament and the UN Headquarters. Art is in Annya’s blood – her father and grandfather were artists before her – and now, with a strong and loyal following across social media, she is bringing art to a new audience. Annya lives and works in Mayfair.

An ambassador for the iconic Victoria & Albert Museum, Annya arranged to meet Domus Stay COO, Rachel Angell at the gallery. The plan was to talk about her favourite pieces. However, tier two restrictions meant that their conversation was relegated to Zoom, so Rachel began by asking her whether she felt her work had changed through lockdown. 

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Annya (AS):  I work mainly in painting, and usually the work I do is big: the bigger the better, for me!  But since March, I’ve been working on much smaller canvasses – probably about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.  They’re much more practical now that I’m based at home. It was a huge change to begin with, but actually, I’ve really enjoyed exploring this smaller medium, and of course I’ve been able to make a lot of them! Each painting could be displayed on its own, or put together to form one large piece, or series of works. In many ways, it’s a much more accessible way to buy art for your home. 

I’ve also really appreciated nature throughout this period, and I’ve loved exploring how natural themes weave through culture. I think when something like this happens, you think deeply about sustainability, and I started noticing that, no matter what we do, nature always wins! Look at the blades of grass which push through the pavement. There’s nature, pushing her way through. 

RA: This has certainly been the year of Mother Nature! 

AS: It has! For me, it’s opened up lots of questions about the female role in society. As a female artist, you do find that the art world can be quite closed; female artists are not as in demand. You are under pressure to look a certain way, or dress in certain clothes, in order to fit in. And now, perhaps this is me being philosophical, but I feel like this year, we’ve been given more space to grow and to find our space.

By nature, artists like to isolate, so I’m used to it, in a way! Of course, there have been so many tales of loss and of sadness, but I actually found lockdown quite “necessary”. As we all did, I’d run around like crazy before, but not really connect properly; only really meeting people on the surface. So for me, this has been the time for introspection, to read books, and to think deeply. It’s been a very interesting time for my art. 

RA: Hearing about you talk about your smaller pieces, I wonder what things you consider when you’re creating art for your clients?

Well, a commission always depends on the collector, and whether I get to meet them; sometimes you don’t. You try to get the feeling of who they are as a person. Some clients say, “Do whatever you want”; others invite you to their home, and show you exactly where they’d like to hang the painting, so you understand the particular positioning, the light. Many clients can be very specific about colours and particular styles; you try to get a feel for what they appreciate and value. 

RA: We were supposed to be meeting at the Victoria & Albert Museum today. I suppose what’s so great about the V&A is that the objects that it houses are both publicly interesting but also deeply personal pieces for the people who commissioned them. 

AS:  I agree, I love the V&A. You can see everything there, from art, culture, and design, to fashion, architecture, jewellery, and painting. The list goes on! The building itself is very impressive and to be there always feels very special. I still feel like every time I go is like the first time, as there’s always something new to discover. It’s a magical place, like a jewellery box.

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RA: You selected the jewellery room as one of your favourite places within the museum. Are there any pieces which particularly strike you in that place?   

AS: My father was a jeweller, and so the jewellery room feels very special to me. I’m particularly drawn to the skill involved – the endless sketches, the technical craft, and the precision. 

RA: Looking through history, and of course in today’s world, part of the reason why we wear jewellery is for people to see it. I wonder if the current situation poses a dilemma in that sense.  

AS: Personally, I wear jewellery that symbolises something, more than as a fashion statement. Everything I wear has a meaning; my jewellery feels like it’s a part of me. I do wear costume jewellery, but not on a daily basis, and mostly in the sense that I feel I’m completing a composition, through colour or shape. As if I’m wearing a piece of art.

What’s so astonishing about the pieces within the collection is that every single item has a story attached to it, as well as about the woman for whom it was made. I find that fascinating.

RA: One of the other pieces you picked out as a favourite was the most amazing Chinese wallpaper.    

AS: Yes, I’m a huge fan of the wallpapers in the collection, and of Chinese art in general, whether silks, or embroidery, or painting. So much time and concentration has gone into each piece. And here again you see, the artists particularly drawn to the world around them.     

I think we are all artists in one way or another. Painting can be one expression of that, but it could be the way you cut your hair, or the words you choose. Everything we see has an impact on how we express ourselves.  The world is there within us all, but I think there is another world in our heads, which is our perception of the world around us. Just because you see the world one way, doesn’t mean that’s the way it is. 

RA: You’ve selected textiles, and pieces of the most amazing illuminated scripture. I wonder how these pieces speak to you today, and why do you think they are so valuable to us?

AS: Well there’s the history of course, but then for me it’s about the sheer amount of work involved. I really appreciate art that demands craft.  It’s the time, and skill of the craftsman that makes an artwork special.  All of the pieces in the V&A have that in some way, and maybe that’s why I love it so much, and choose it over other galleries. Every single item, no matter how small or big has an enormous amount of work. And really, that’s what makes it human. It’s full of life really – because nothing comes easy, and the things that do come easy, are not the things we value.

RA: Many of these pieces were intended for the home, and I wonder what you observe about how people choose art for their home, and what they value about it?

AS: My experience is that people buy art because they like it, but also because they want to live with, to have it, or to look at it. I find that this gives my work some kind of life in a way, some light and space in which to exist.  Of course it’s an investment for the collector, but so much of what you do as an artist is personal, so in the end, any business you do is driven by human relationships. It all comes down to that.

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