About Celia Paul
Celia Paul was born in 1959 in the city of Thiruvananthapuram (formerly called Trivandrum), the state capital of Kerala in India. She studied at the Slade School of Art from 1976 to 1981, where she was taught by Lucian Freud, becoming his model for several works including Naked Girl with Egg (1981), now in the collection of the British Council. In 1984 Paul had a child by Freud, named Frank Paul, who is also an artist.
Celia Paul's first solo exhibition was at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London in 1986, and this was followed by further solo shows at Marlborough Fine Art, London, between 1991 and 2011. Paul has been a regular exhibitor at the annual Corner exhibition in Copenhagen since 2003 and in 2011 she won first prize in the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Award.
Remarkably Paul is one of the few artists to have been subject to a review by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Writing in Modern Painters magazine in 2004, the Right Honorable and Most Reverend Rowan Williams (who is married to her older sister Jane) stated: 'The whole point of Celia Paul's work is to break down the polarity between self-contemplation and the contemplation of the other - an other that opens out to that final otherness which religious people know as God.'
Celia Paul is most well known for her series of portraits of her mother. Paul took up this subject whilst still a student at the Slade School of Art, and she has described the motivation to use her mother as a principal subject as stemming from an inability to draw the Slade School's life model because she felt no connection with the model. Paul said: “She [the model] meant nothing to me, so I couldn’t work from her. It seemed important to me to work from someone who mattered to me. And the person who mattered most to me was my mother.” As a result Paul's mother became a recurring subject of her paintings and prints for the next 35 years. Writing in Modern Painters magazine in 1991 Martin Golding described the intimacy of Paul's work as leading to an "emotional intensity" deriving from her "unique engagement with their subjects.” A similar comment was also made by the art critic Laura Cuming, who said of Paul's work: 'Her paintings aren't so much portraits as poems, based on intensely empathetic observation.'
Paul's style and method has been compared favourably to that of Francis Bacon (artist), Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, although she has also been contrasted to them for possessing an 'overtly spiritual dimension' to her work.
Paul's painted portraits are loose brush realist in style, with shallow space and little additional detailing. Paul's monochrome prints are similar in format, sometimes resembling the prints of the German expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz. The images are built up through what one critic described as 'a gradual accumulation of oil-paint, sometimes smoothly trans-lucent, sometimes roughly scumbled or pierced.' The result is, according to the same critic, that 'Magnified, the surface would be as irregular as the moon's crust. At a distance, it gathers and reflects back a hazy brightness.'
Occasionally Paul has also produced images of landscapes, including images of London's Post Office Tower and other scenes with buildings. In each case there is a great deal of dynamism in the way the paint is manipulated, with Matthew Collings describing the process as one in which "Paint is piled up, scraped down, reworked, moved around and ordinary things, bodies and effects of light are conjured." In relation to her figure paintings Alistair Hicks has written that "Large figures dominate large compositions and they deserve the much vaunted epithet of monumental. (Celia Paul's) heavy technique creates her sitters before our very eyes. One can see them built up brush stroke upon brush stroke." According to the art critic Tony Godfrey, Paul works within the Slade tradition, a reference to the emphasis on strong draughtsmanship in both the paintings and prints.
Pregnant Girl 
Etching, artist's proof (edition of 35), 17.5 x 22 cms
Donated by the artist 1992
The shape of the girl's pregnant stomach is here echoed in a similar shape in the window which could be another pregnant figure, mountain or even a mirror image of the girl herself.