Welcoming Erin Chaplin to Otomys

The Otomys team recently sat down with Cape Town-based artist Erin Chaplin - the newest addition to the Otomys stable of artists - to discuss her vibrant and visceral painting practice. 
OTOMYS: You explore a diverse range of genres, including portraiture, landscape, abstract geometrics and still life. Most artists select one genre to focus on, however you give us these exciting snapshots of your life. Why do you incorporate a diverse range of genres within your practice?
Erin Chaplin: My exploration of different genres is not a conscious choice. Rather, it is a reflection of my insatiable fascination with every facet of life. Sometimes I wish I was able to spend more time focusing on one subject or genre, but I am constantly pulled by the different forces of life. Although everyday life can seem unassuming, in reality it is a vibrant and multifaceted place host to a vast array of stories and experiences. There is a beauty to everyday life that I am seduced by. 
I am forever falling in love with different subject matter, and find that I will often rediscover subjects that I had previously forgotten. At the moment I have been compelled to create a series of abstract paintings. It is rare for my paintings not to include a level of abstraction, as it allows me to communicate a strong mood and emotion within my depiction of people, places and objects. 
OTOMYS: Your distinctive brushwork and colour palette convey a sense of human vulnerability; faces are soft and blank, poses are slouched and relaxed and your colours are earthy. How have you developed this visceral style?
Erin Chaplin: My style was created instinctively. Colour communicates an important symbolism within my practice. It has the power to evoke strong and palpable emotions. Human form is a touchy subject for me. It is both a neutral, safe space, and a battlefield, filled with angst and confusion. Colour allows me to express this duality. 
OTOMYS: We read that you 'don’t want anything to be too perfect…because that’s not realistic.' How do your paintings challenge traditional notions of ‘realism’ and approach the tension between reality and fantasy? 
Erin Chaplin: When I started painting still life the elements within the composition were always outlined with a thick brown line. I liked being able to clearly delineate where each object existed within space. This clarity was comforting. As a result, I still compose most of my figurative and abstract works with lines. Although these lines do not exist in reality, they make me feel in control. Over time, my focus on the ‘proper’ colour and form for an object has diminished. Instead, I am more focused on depicting what the form and colour ‘feel’ like, which ultimately blurs reality with fantasy. 
As mentioned, I have recently created more abstract works. This has been a great tool for me to relinquish control and rely less on the comfort of lines. Many of my works are inspired by dreams, which greatly conflates reality with fantasy. I like how we can find meaning within our dreams, and the power that exists within this often bizarre and ever-changing realm of subconsciousness.
February 15, 2023