Alison Pullen has been working on and off at West Horsley Place over the last year. The conditions have been somewhat testing, especially through the winter, when Alison could often be found shivering near an electric heater in the Stone Hall despite many layers of clothing, but painting on undaunted. 

Alison studied at the Royal College of Art and has painted the interiors of many prestigious historic buildings including the Bodleian Library, Buckingham Palace, the V&A Museum and Leeds Castle. Operations Manager Clare Clinton spoke to Alison about her work. 

Some of the works Alison has created at West Horsley Place are still available to buy at Quantum Contemporary Art. 

CC: What is it about historic buildings that inspires you?

AP: I have always been interested in history and so historic buildings and the stories that surround them have always been appealing.  I am always thinking about what has happened in a room and who has been there and the rooms at West Horsley Place clearly have a lot of history!  History, its people and what they have done and why people do things has always interested me. I have been developing my collage paintings since I was at college over 25 years ago and the layering aspect has always been there.  I am painting over magazine pages of other rooms. I am thinking of a room having layers of history as it has had layers of occupants all leading different lives with individuals with different agendas and desires.  Each person has made their mark on a room. They decorate or arrange their rooms in a particular manner.  
CC: How did you first hear about West Horsley Place?
AP: One of my dealers, Johnny Gorman of Quantum Contemporary Art told me about West Horsley Place and I went along to have a look and was astounded by the broad history associated with the place. 
CC: What made you want to come and work here?
AP: You could almost pick any point in British history and West Horsley Place has been involved.  I thought the story of how it had recently been inherited by Bamber Gascoigne was wonderful, as such a treasure has landed unexpectedly in the lap of someone who has its best interests at heart, and that added to its appeal.  It could so easily have had a different outcome and that adds another important layer to its history.
CC: What is it like to work in the building, does it have a particular atmosphere?
AP: I first arrived in the depths of winter last year when the house seemed colder than the snowy weather outside, but the lack of central heating although difficult to work in, added to the charms of the house and it certainly made me get on with it!  It was all part of working in the house and hopefully was reflected in the work. It was just such a joy to be in a house that was so special as it had been untouched.  It felt as if people had respected its history and so not imposed on it.
CC: Why is working in situ so important for you?
AP: I have always worked in situ as the work is about atmosphere and a sense of place. They are about my feelings at the time and my reaction to the room at that moment. I can recall the radio programme that I was listening to when I did a piece, years after I have done it.  The painting is a moment in that room's history.  I start and finish the painting in the room as this forces me to do the least amount of painting on the magazine page possible, but still make the painting work as a picture of the room.  If the painting works well, that means that the original photograph co-exists with the paint I put on in an equal manner.  The beauty of collage is that the subconscious has a play.  The ethereal and transitory always interest me as well as the surreal.
CC: Your work has focussed on several specific rooms, was there a special reason they attracted you?
AP: West Horsley Place has many beautiful and interesting rooms and I am always attracted to the rooms that are unlike any other and have a lovely aspect of light about them.  I try and reproduce the light I see and sometimes have to capture it quickly before it disappears so sometimes I put the light in before I paint the walls or furniture!
CC: How did you develop the mixed media method you use to create your pieces?
AP: I started doing collage pictures aged seven, at art classes after school by tearing up coloured supplements from Times newspapers to create pictures of still lives.  Some of which are still hanging in the family home.  I'm still creating and playing in the same way!  I carry around a folder of hundreds of whole magazine pages and sift through them when I start a painting. Instead of using a paintbrush or pencil these are my ways of drawing.  I put one to six pieces down and think about what I need to change with the paint to make them look like the room I am in.  That is one of the reasons why I work in situ as I can take such liberties and let my imagination run riot on what I can leave of the original magazine pages.
CC: We're delighted that you have found such inspiration here and look forward greatly to seeing what you create on your next visit!