In a coffee shop in the heart of cosy Crystal Palace, artist Paulette McKoy waits for me in the front seat. She’s looking particularly artistic, wearing a distinctive red beret and sipping on a frothy coffee. She seems pleased to see me and excited to talk about her work.Having graduated from a fashion design course at Salford University and done an art foundation at South Trafford College, she explains with a soothing Mancunian lilt, how she found her feet in the art world: “The lecturer at the college said that I should seriously consider doing fine art. I said, no, I’m going to do fashion. Funnily enough after moving to London and applying for various jobs within the fashion industry, I’ve now actually gone back to art. He said that that was the area that I would be quite good in.”

She received critical acclaim for a painting she did as a gift to her brother; recognition from an avid art collector and a warm response from her first exhibition in a small café near her home. Since then the interest in her work has grown.

Paulette appears to be an emotional character and this is evident in her art. Her distinct awareness of the use of colour and the fluid movement within her pieces speak like a second voice. One can’t help but notice that each piece is saying something to you. “A lot of what I do is developed from my experiences throughout the day,” she says taking a moment to draw upon a recent experience when she had spent weeks looking for work and was feeling down and quite deflated and was then offered a new job as a P.A in retail. “I created a piece called Sunset. It was quite strong colours, reds and yellows. It shows my mood in a sense. It showed a new chapter in my life.”

Painting is Paulette’s escapism from the routine of daily life and she stumbles over her words as she tries to explain this concept to me. “I move away from that and take myself to a different level. It’s a whole different mood that just uplifts me.”

As she thinks about putting on another exhibition, she gets more excited as she imagines herself in her glamorous gown showing people in to the gallery to talk about her work. “I’m trying to concentrate on doing something like that this year. I’m trying to build up my portfolio of work. The problem that I’m having is – yeah I want to do exhibitions but as soon as I paint pieces they get sold.”

As a final thought she thinks about whom she would love to have exhibited her work in their home. “Martin Luther King and Oprah Winfrey”, she says, satisfied with her final answer. Interesting that she chose two powerful and motivational people – characteristics that epitomise her work.

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Words by Selina Campbell

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