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“We are meaning-makers. We construct our own worlds, consciously or not.”

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Toby Mulligan’s distinctive contemporary figures have won him both critical and public acclaim. He works in a variety of media including charcoal on paper and inks. He is deeply engaged with the whole creative process so often grinds his own pigments and has been known to experiment with varnishes, wax, medieval paint recipes and rolls of wallpaper.

His spontaneous style has developed over many years. When he begins a piece, he does not prepare with sketches or planning, but simply starts to paint or draw, and each work is intuitive, spirited and extraordinary. He uses a wide range of models, but feels that his best work comes from making a connection with the person he paints. Although he does use photographs, his preference is always to paint from life and to form this connection with the model.

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A painting of one of his daughters is an outstanding example of how this emotion can transform a work into something out of the ordinary. Entitled ‘About Time’, it was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2012; after hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London throughout the summer, it is currently in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.  

Toby was commissioned to paint tennis star Roger Federer in 2014 for the player’s annual charity gala in Geneva, and his work is in private collections around the world, including that in Mick Jagger’s chateau in France. He has made a number of films painting portraits for Winsor and Newton, Liquitex and Cass Art and this year, he has been filmed painting for Sky Arts TV for a forthcoming autumn show. 

His mantra both as an artist and as a person is to simply to be present, paying total attention to the world within and without. He believes we can go out and learn whatever we need,  thanks to the information revolution, so there's no need to go around with a head full of facts and figures. The challenge as he sees it is to be free, clear and “as unfettered by stuff and thinking as the day we were born. Always open, always amazed”. 

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