What is the best thing that I love about my work? No matter how times I’ve done it, the ability to transform a thought or an idea into an image on canvas is still like magic for me. I love this process: creating something out of nothing. And then of course, the freedom to decide when and how much I want to work in my own time.
What is my idea of perfect happiness? Abundance. And this is not just material abundance. Of course, I wouldn’t mind living in a big house and having beautiful things around me. But, I’m also talking about enjoying the abundance of life. Abundance of laughter with friends. Abundance of enjoying a good meal in good company. Abundance of enjoying the beauty of art.
What is my greatest fear? From all the small fears that I have, the biggest one would be to lose all hope. I don’t really like the thought of growing old and being alone. But then at least I do still have the hope that this is not how it will be. And being hopeful is in my nature. I don’t ever want to lose this quality.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? I like to be in control. I like to be prepared. And yet still, sometimes I get overwhelmed by things that I am not able to control. And I see this as a sign of weakness in myself.
Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Right now it is Kris Kuksi. He is an American artist who does complex realistic installations. What appeals to me about his work, is that he creates a complete world of fantasy — a ready-made place that I want to escape to and where I can find adventure.
What is my greatest extravagance? Travelling to places where I can see and experience the wonders of ancient civilisations, touching buildings and objects that humans created thousands of years ago. I particularly enjoyed Egypt for this reason as well as Crete. It’s like using a time machine, allowing me to live a thousand lives.
On what occasion would I lie? I try to be as honest as possible, simply because it is so difficult to keep track of the details of a lie. But if I was ever put in a situation where I have to protect the people I love, especially when it comes to my family… my daughter… I would do anything to shield her from harm.
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? As much as I love creating my paintings, if I had my way I would love for my work to just magically appear in galleries. It’s all the practicalities after the painting is complete that I detest: writing artist’s statements (I cannot write on demand) and organising the framing and shipping of my work to exhibitions. But it’s part of the work, so it has to be done.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I am really happy every day when I have the ability to create — to stand in my studio and paint. But besides that, and what is very special for me, my happiest moments are when I see that people connect with my work. And this is the whole purpose of what I do: I want people to find something in my work that is of interest and value to them, and that they can relate to.
If I could, what would I change about myself? As a child I had an eidetic memory. I could remember entire books. My mind seemed to absorb and keep everything. But now, I notice this is not the case anymore. So yes, if I could change something about myself I would like to have my ability to remember things with such vividness back, please.
What is my greatest achievement in my work? There are many achievements I am proud of. But I am humbled by the fact that I have been able to make a living from something I love for such a long time, because I have seen many talented artists really struggling to get by. And then of course, seeing my work displayed on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery in London or the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona gives me a pretty good feeling too.
Where would I most like to live? Right now, I am living where I like to live. London. I love the history, architecture, great culture and exciting art scene. It comes down to abundance again, I suppose. And if not London, then I would choose any other city in the world that has similar qualities on offer — New York, Rome, Venice…
What is my most treasured possession? It has to be my iPad. My entire life is on it. I don’t think I need to say anything more.
What is my most marked characteristic? Perseverance. I’m very good at starting things and pushing myself to finish it, even if the stuff in between is laborious. It’s discipline, I guess. It’s not something that came natural to me but it got drummed into me through my Russian background.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city? The National Portrait Gallery. It’s part of my routine. I try to visit it once a week and sometimes I go there just to look at one particular painting. And then, when I have time, The Temple Church, because it is like a time capsule. It was built in the 12th century. And again, it’s just magical. I never stay too long, but it’s where I recharge.
What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? Home House, where I am a member. It combines grand, beautiful surroundings with a laid-back atmosphere. It offers a wonderful respite from the buzz of central London… But I have to say, because I am a member, I am lazy so I don’t make the effort to discover any other place because Home House covers all my needs.
What books influenced my life and how? I started reading at a very early age. I read a lot as a child and I am still an avid reader. So, it’s difficult for me to pick just one book that influenced my life. But there are two books that touched me tremendously when I was young: The Little Prince and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Who are my favorite writers? Octavia Butler, Stefan Zweig, George R.R. Martin and Micheal Bulgakov.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Gianni Scicci, Handel and baroque arias all performed by Yoshikazu Mera, a Japanese countertenor.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? I cannot say that I have a fictional character that I look up to. I am inspired by real people.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I have been challenged by her many books. She is such an inspiration and her autobiography Infidel made a huge impression on me.
Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Ron Fricke’s Baraka and Elizabeth with Kate Blanchet.
What role does art play in my life and work? It is indispensable. As Oscar Wilde said: “All art is quite useless” and yet it is something that is so essential to Life. Since I was a little girl, art just spoke to me and I think it’s because art provokes feelings, it makes me dream and sometimes I even get emotional because of the beauty and genius of it. It’s magical.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My daughter and my closest friends.
Whom would I like to work with in 2017? I’m not looking to collaborate with someone because I work alone. But as a subject matter, I would love to do a portrait of my heroine Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017? Vincent Desiderio, a contemporary figurative American artist.
What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on? I have several on the go and I have quite a few specific galleries I want to approach.
Where can you see me or my work in 2017? Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Mall Galleries London in July, Zhou B Art Centre in Chicago, in August and anytime on my website: www.natalie-holland.com
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? I hope that I will be able to paint to my very last breath. I’m intending to drop dead with a paintbrush in my hand.
Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Human Right Activist @ayaan (Twitter). Legacy Russell—She runs the online art platform Artsy @legacyRussell , Alison Kervin (OBE) — Sport Editor and writer @alikervin
How can you contact me?
@hollandnat – Instagram