Opposites attract: Artist Miranda Donovan has revamped her west London council house

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Miranda Donovan's work, which crashes together watercolour landscapes with scenes of urban decay, has made the 31-year-old something of a rising star in the UK art scene. The Home Unleashed, her new exhibition at London's Lazarides Gallery, brings her street art into the domestic domain: she builds traditional interiors on 3D panels before loudly graffiti-ing over them. Does Donovan's own home show such restlessness with tradition?

Not quite – Donovan laughingly insists she's never been tempted to take a spray can to her walls. "It wasn't influenced by our home," she says. "But when I was doing 3D brick walls, that was partly, subconsciously, influenced by going with my husband to his sites – his job is renovating buildings. Once he'd ripped everything out of a building, I'd think it was quite beautiful."

Donovan lives with her husband Bruce and their baby son Benjamin in a council house in west London, where they moved four years ago. "When we bought the house, it was very basic, just square box-rooms, so there was plenty of scope to do what we wanted," she explains, adding that her husband got quite busy with the renovations. "If we had to move again, we'd never want a place that's been 'done' – it's nice for him to do his work on his own house."

Donovan adds that, far from putting her off, it being a council house provided an opportunity to get creative: "It's an unexpected, classical interior within a council house – it's not what you'd expect. It's the marriage of opposites, which is probably subconscious with my home, although more conscious in my work. Nothing is what it seems. You never know what's behind a closed door."

This marriage of opposites is one of the key ideas behind her art: "It's opulence and splendour versus decay and squalor. The random markings on structured, patterned wallpapers invites the viewer to think that nothing is what it seems."

Colour is another area where her work aesthetic and decorating style overlap, with bright, bold colours central in both – from the neon-brights of her graffiti works to the block, primary red of the chairs and tables in her kitchen. "Colour is important in my home, and it plays a massive part in my work," she says. "In many ways, although I don't like categories or pigeonholes, I do think of myself as a colourist."

Donovan tries to keep her home and work life separate, however, making most of her pieces in her studio. After Ben was born, in November 2009, she attempted to combine childcare with artistic creation, but with limited success: "I did try to bring him into the studio, but I was a pretty crap mum and pretty bad artist – these worlds had to separate!"

Keeping the two spheres apart is a practice she now tries to follow. "We work in chaotic places, so having home as a sanctuary is important. It's difficult, as anything creative you carry on thinking about it; even when I'm giving Ben a bath. But the aim is to have somewhere we can switch off."

The Home Unleashed is at the Lazarides Gallery, London W1, to 26 March. For further details: lazinc.com