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"A small painting brings you in. It makes you sort of peek through this tiny window."

Words by Nora Britten

L: Fish Mirror 4, 2021. R: Fish Mirror 3, 2021

There is a dreamlike quality to many of Plum Cloutman’s images – from impossible spatial relationships and off-kilter scale, to surreal details and juxtapositions.

Naked women appear in the scales of a fish, a pregnant toy poodle floats in the bath where a woman’s stomach should be, an oversized hand holds a too-small glass of wine.

Dogs feature frequently. “I am an unapologetic weird dog person,” she says. “We have a couple of dogs, who rule my whole life. But also, it’s something you’ll see in quite a lot of old paintings: there’ll be a scene with people at a dinner table, or like having a fight or whatever and there’s a dog or a cat who is like making direct eye contact with you, like they are your avatar in the painting. I really like that idea. And I just think they look funny.”

L: Macho Meat, 2021 R: Eggs for the Boys, 2021
"I am an unapologetic weird dog person"

Over past few years, Cloutman has swerved from producing large oil paintings to tiny works on paper, very often no larger than 20cm. “I figured out that all of the information that I had been putting on really large canvases could be condensed down to the size of a postcard, and I sort of reevaluated why I had been working so big,” she says.

I think a lot of painters feel the need to work at that scale, without really thinking about what scale makes the most sense for what they’re trying to get across. Or what scale makes the most sense for the kind of intimacy you want with the viewer.”

“A small painting brings you in. It makes you sort of peek through this tiny window.”

Enjoyed this extract? The whole story will be available in glorious print, on all good bookshelves and via our store from October 6. Pre-order here.

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Nora Britten

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