Abigail Phang Gung Fook | Issue Eight Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

My parents migrated to the UK from the West indies. I am the second child of four

daughters, we were a very private low key family. We are of mixed heritage and

consequently did not fit into any particular community. We lived on a council estate in NW

London, there was always a sense of not drawing attention to yourself. As a result of my

upbringing family has always been important to me. Family first and solitude still


Upon leaving school I trained as a textile designer and set up my own practice and worked

in the American home furnishings industry. I took a career break as a stay at home mother

and retrained as a fine art painter. I graduated from City and Guilds Art School, London in

2017. My training as a textile designer remains a strong influence on my paintings, in not

only what I look at, but also how I physically produce a painting. My work is highly

decorative and flat. My paintings are theatrical and vibrant, the colours are joyful and my

expressive painting technique and naïve language help tell my story. There is drama and raw emotion in my work. My love of pattern and fabric continues to resonate, recently I find

myself using more decoration and pattern in my work. It has become more important in my


What set you off as an artist?

During my career break, I attended part time art classes. I took a portraiture class and was

introduced to oil paints. I fell in love! I wanted to further explore this new medium and

develop my drawing and painting skills. One of my tutors suggested I study for a MA in fine

Art. I was accepted to City & Guilds Art School and began on an unexpected second career path. I enjoyed my profession as a textile designer but as a painter I am fulfilled by being able to express my thoughts and emotions. My work is cathartic.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

My work is very personal. It is about my observations, events that have happened, the

effects and the consequences of my decisions. My work explores love, bereavement,

marriage, divorce, demanding relationships, bullying and intimidation. Although the

subjects are sometimes deep and personal, the underlying message is the everyday.

Painting enables me to express my feelings and experiences. Dogs are a significant feature

of my work, I use dogs as a metaphor for the people they represent, creating ambiguity. The

narrative in my work is not always immediate to the viewer. I am searching for answers to

unresolved issues. I have always used satire, love and positivity to help me cope with

difficult situations. This is essence of my practice, my work reflects this spirit.

What art do you most identify with? Any specific influences or research areas?

I gravitate towards figurative and female artists. I enjoy work that is telling a story, it has to

be heartfelt, a reflection of what echoes my own sentiments. I like honesty, love and truth.

In the past I have looked at Alice Neel, Frida Kahlo, Chantal Joffe, Bisa Butler, Faith

Ringgold, Mequitta Ahuja and Tschabala Self. I am particularly intrigued by the use of fabric

in some of the aforementioned practices, embroidery, patchwork, sewing and bonding. I like

the softness of and femininity of fabric and canvas.

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? What is your most essential tool?

All my materials and tools in my process are essential. Without one item my routine and

approach to my work would have to change. I have a very set method of working. The

negative in my practice is clearing up at the end of a day’s painting. I am a very messy artist.

Tell us how you organise, plan, and prioritise your work

I do all my preparation at home. I write a short passage for each body of work which gathers

all my thoughts. Sometimes I produce a sketchbook of watercolour drawings before

embarking on new paintings and quick pencil and watercolour sketches in a note book.

Therefor when I arrive at my studio I know exactly what I want to paint. I am very

industrious when I am painting. I will not leave my studio until I have achieved my goal. I

have to paint alone with music playing softly in the background. I hate silence. How I choose

which story to paint is emotionally led.

How do you navigate the art world?

Instagram is an incredible platform for promotional and networking potential. It is your daily

online gallery. I try to be active on Instagram, especially as being an artist can be a very

lonely profession. As an artist you need time to examine and think, but if like me you can

only paint in isolation you bring more loneliness upon yourself. I need to completely

submerge myself in the moment when I am painting. My studio is one of 13 artist’s studios

licenced from ACCAVA an artist’s charity in the UK. Each artist is at a different stage of their

career, our experiences compliment and support each other. Lunches turn into impromptu

art talks, exchanging views, exhibitions to see etc… Its invaluable. I still feel very naïve about the art world.

Describe the trajectory of your career as an artist so far

Post- graduation is a steep learning curve. I have been fortunate to gain gallery

representation. I have exhibited in London and I am working closely with my galleries. They

are all very supportive passing on collectors comments and feedback which is always

encouraging whether it is negative or positive. You want a reaction to your work. I have

learnt from my mistakes and my achievements. There have been lots of mistakes.

Professionally, what is your goal?

I enjoy painting and drawing every day. I want to remain truthful and to keep questioning

myself and pushing my practice. All artists want their work to be seen and appreciated.

Being positive is essential, as is looking at your career as a long term investment of your

energy and emotions.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I have been short listed for The 2019 Young Contemporary Talent Purchase Prize. The award ceremony is on November 08, at The Cello Factory, London. The exhibition continues until November 12.

I have recently joined a new London collective https://bleurart.com

We will have an online presence and we will exhibit in London periodically.

I will be showing work at, Luxembourg Art December 2019 and Paris Art3F January 2020

with https://www.patrizio-contemporary.com

A solo show is planned with https://www.galeriejanegriffiths.com Spring 2020

I have been contacted by a Turkish collector who is interested in some of my work for his

hotels and offices in Istanbul.

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