Innovators: Eva Yates

Eva Yates (born 1996 Southeast London) describes herself as a “neo-surrealist oil painter whose warping of imagery counters her demons”. Her paintings often reference classical and Renaissance myths and legends, which she translates into the present day by using friends as models and muses, for example ‘Ophelia’ (2020) shows a nymph-like figure floating on a pond, surrounded by discarded face masks, referencing the pandemic.

Although inspired by the past, her paintings explore contemporary issues including mental health, stress, loneliness and companionship, and she uses spheres and bubble shapes in her paintings to represent feelings of isolation and as a metaphor for a protective bubble that keeps intrusive thoughts at bay. Eva recently completed her studies in classic realism at Grand Central Atelier in New York, studying under Jacob Collins and Colleen Barry.

Culturalee: How would you define culture?

Eva Yates: A shared background and history between a group of people and experiences that embodies the same beliefs and habits.

Culturalee: What was the starting point for your career as an artist?

EY: I first stated taking my career very seriously when I went to London Atelier of Representational art I wanted to learn how to be able to translate what I see onto the canvas confidently. Picasso once said ‘learn the rules so you can break them’. From there I won a scholarship to Grand Central Atelier in New York City; where I studied under Colleen Barry one of my favourite artist. Living in New York made me realise how being an artist can be a whole way of life not just a 9 to 5. Being around that much art and culture in the city that is always buzzing made me want to just live and breath art.

Innovators: Eva Yates

Culturalee: What’s been your most moving cultural experience to date?

EY: Moving to Manhattan, New York City. Living in a China Town apartment where the bathroom sink was also the kitchen sink and I had my very own fire escape. One night I return to the place I will call home for the next year, turn on the light to find roaches crawling across my bed. However I romanticised everything and everything inspired me in one way or another. The skate park under Manhattan Bridge, The pop up private views, the McDonalds that never got refurbished and still had plastic yellow booths and McDonalds clowns plastered all over the walls and the fanatical district hovering over the trash filled streets.

Culturalee: What’s your greatest personal achievement as an artist?

EY: Getting into Grand Central Atelier, I felt for first time that not only people where beginning to appreciate my work but renowned artists believed in me. The Royal Collage of Art was the first time where I actually where I felt I deserved to be there and I actually had a chance, I was completely overwhelmingly emotionally invested. When I got in I felt validated. I have had real ups and downs through out the years with complete knocks to my confidence; from gallery rejections to not selling anything for months. But right now I know I’m on the right path attending RCA and I’m on cloud 9 surrounded my inspiring artist that are growing into budding friendships.

Culturalee: What’s your favourite artist/ book/ exhibition/ play/ film/ musician?


  • Artist : Sasha Gordon
  • Book : Just Kids, Patty Smith
  • Exhibition : Saatchi Yates Will St John
  • Play : Perfume
  • Film : Candy (2006)

Musician : right now Troye Sivan

Culturalee: Who are the cultural icons and artists that have inspired you most?

EY: David Lynch, William Blake, Edie Sedgwick.

Innovators: Eva Yates

Culturalee: Any tips for young people wanting to break into the art world?

EY: Go to as many private views and exhibitions as you can. This is where you can meet like minded people and it’s all about having a network. Find the galleries that show the work you are interested in and you could see your work being shown in and get chatting. But in all honesty the galleries really look at graduates and post grads for upcoming talent so I have gone to do a masters at the Royal College of Art

Culturalee: Can you describe the process of making your art work?

EY: Therapeutic

Culturalee: Can you describe the process of making your art and how you developed it?

EY: The bubbles originated from my feeling of isolation while working alone in my parents’ garden shed after being ripped out of Grand Central Atelier when the covid lockdown hit. I 
take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings. I recently took a trip to Berlin and was so stimulated by the concrete of that city.

I stayed in East Berlin where beautiful petroglyphs, normally engraved on stone, were drawn into concrete and set on the terracotta, painted, pebbledash apartment
complexes. On a grey and wet day, I entered Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe where children were running around playing hide and seek among the standing concrete slabs.

That juxtaposition of Holocaust memorial and mindless play, inert monochrome and childish colour, left me with a weird thought: even black-and-white films can provoke endorphins. Concrete is the epitome of the modern society and, on my canvasses, applying concrete as a framing device to my fragile, liquescent bubbles could suggest the outside world pressing in on my subjects’ protective force fields. I’m hardly ever at ease, and most of my work starts as a response to the mental state I am in at the time, from my experience with sleep paralysis and orgasming to hypochondria, while using symbolism to depict these things.

Innovators: Eva Yates

Culturalee: What projects are you currently working on?

EY: I am working towards an exhibition called ‘If you’re lost this is where you can be found’, that Kate McClenaghan and I will be curating. The show is by a group of artists working with urban-related materials in their paintings and sculptures, and responding to the space we have hired, Safe House Peckham. This show will be exploring the city’s fabric that Londoners choose to surround themselves with, amplifying the beauty of the often neglected immediate environment.

Instagram: @evayatess

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