Pearl Bates

Pearl Bates, who is exhibiting her glamorous paintings at the clothes shop Rubenesque throughout Artwave, has a tiny studio tucked up behind a garage door on Stewards Inn. She’s wearing a paint-spattered black mac and jeans, and has a fresh haircut with one of those short-cut fringes, and green eyes. She goes off to make me tea, and I take a quick look around in the way you can when you are unobserved. There’s a bookshelf full of art books, a tailor’s dummy with a blond wig and lipstick, and a number of her paintings on the wall. A long-necked girl in a low-cut red dress fingers her pearls; a black girl in an enormous tiara emerges out of an ostrich-feather stole; a punky-looking girl stands in profile, her spiky hair swept back as if she’s just been surprised by an almighty gust of wind. There are books by Egon Schiele and Hokusai and Alfons Mucha. There’s a painting in progress on an easel, of a flame-haired girl whose thin frame is counterbalanced by an enormous puffball dress. Pearl re-emerges with a cup of tea in a PG Tips mug.

I ask her about her influences: she talks of Schiele, of Mucha, of Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe. “I’m influenced by what I see in film and fashion, and what I see around me,” she says. “The way people stand when they drink a coffee, or smoke a cigarette. It all goes into a bank in the back of my head.” She doesn’t take photographs of people. “I don’t take a camera around, but sometimes I make a surreptitious sketch of people.”

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Pearl Bates “Lewes isn’t glam? We’ve got a castle for god’s sake”