Through the medium of oil painting, tutor Jemisha Maadhavji brings a contemporary approach to portraiture, combining pattern, bold colours and character to every portrait she paints.
Maadhavji is a tutor who teaches the Captured on Canvas course at Attenborough Arts Centre. Having recently featured in New Contemporaries 2022, Vogue India and Saatchi art, she is keen to share her passion for oil painting and portraiture with us.
How would you describe your creative practice?
I would describe myself as a portrait painter working in oils to capture people, looking and appreciating people in my everyday life. In terms of subject, I tend to find my models through Instagram or just out and about and people are often happy to model as long as you get their permission of course. Colour also plays a huge role in the paintings that I create and the portrayal of the figures I depict.
We’ve noticed that your work tends to avoid depicting large scale celebrities or high-profile figures, how do you decide on your subjects?
I tend to organically go about selecting my models, I find myself more interested in people who aren’t necessarily trend followers – people who aren’t afraid to be who they are, show their personality and show that through their sense of style.
Caption: Maadhavji’s paintings have recently been on show as part of the MA Fine Art graduate show at De Monfort University.
Who are your biggest artistic influences, how do they inspire what you create?
I love visiting the National Gallery, seeing the works of Rembrandt, Caravaggio and the old masters. I’m fascinated by the way these artists use chiaroscuro (light and dark) as part of their work to direct people to different aspects of the composition. The Pre-Raphelite paintings are also interesting to me with the way the portraits depict women with flowers and other objects. The motif of the flower is something I enjoy and incorporate in my own work regardless of gender because, for me, it’s more about how it reflects character. When depicting other figures, alternate motifs feel like a better way of adding to the personality that people bring to the painting.
In terms of more contemporary references, Raqib Shaw is an artist whose work I’ve really enjoyed. Beyond the mythical aesthetic, I find his technique really fascinating. Starting with drawing, Shaw projects his drawn designs onto the surface he paints on. He then draws his subject in with stained glass liner before filling in with enamel paint, carefully applying the paint with porcupine quills, needles and other fine objects, it’s really fascinating!
There’s also a lot to be said about taking inspiration from the everyday, a visit to the Golden Mile in Leicester sees you experiencing vivid colours, intricate patterns and a variety of different fabrics through the variety of saari, jewellery and Indian sweet shops. Equally, luxury boutique stores such as Liberty London are places that I enjoy visiting, recording and taking pictures in and experiencing the different textures, fabrics and patterns.
Caption: Jemisha’s paintings make use of a bright and bold colour palette, giving her oil paintings a very contemporary aesthetic.
Oil painting can be seen as quite a traditional medium of making, but your approach to portraiture feels very contemporary and fresh. Why is oil painting your preferred media of choice?
I love working in oil paints because of its slow drying qualities. The possibilities for oil painting are absolutely endless. I also really enjoy the sculptural nature that oil painting can take, the medium exists between the 2D and 3D while still containing key qualities that exist in painting, being able to still see the build up of brush strokes and the shine.
A striking aspect of some of your work is how you frame your subjects. In the past you’ve opted for big chunky colour borders, or more ornate golden frames – how important is framing within your work and how do you decide on framing artworks?
I tend to avoid framing my works too garishly, most new paintings are done on canvas and so doesn’t always need a frame. The decision of framing pieces is also dependent on size. I have tended to frame smaller works with heavier frames and often this is mostly an aesthetic decision.
Could you explain the relationship between the figures and the patterns that feature within the works, what are these inspired by?
Certain patterns relate and work better with different personalities. In particular works I might opt for floral patterns which are influenced by floral carpets or wallpapers, for another person, the patterns may be completely different.
Dive into the world of oil painting through the Captured on Canvas course starting on the 25th October. Jemisha will take you through the basics of blending colours, progressing to using ‘mediums’ and other useful tips, tricks and techniques for creating a masterpiece in oils.