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Image from the Bare album cover photoshoot

First work of art Gosh. I do remember at one point I had a huge thing for Toulouse-Lautrec. I just love the way that he was so aware of form. The garishness in it and the darkness, but a beauty as well. That was something I identified with. I identified very strongly with many of the French Impressionist painters when I was at school and I started to study art a bit. Henri Rousseau—incredibly beautiful. The contrast between the silhouettes of the bare tree branches against the luminous sky really touched me.

Inspirational artists
In the eighties, Dave [Stewart] and I were very inspired by Gilbert and George. But those were more the early days, when they where doing sort of performance art. What I love about Gilbert and George is this notion that there’s no division between art and life. It’s all one. I thought that was profound and daring. Thinking outside the box like that was something I could identify with.

I love looking at people—peoples’ faces in photography. Yesterday, for instance, I was sitting with a particular view of young graduates as they were receiving their degrees from the head of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama, and I could see the expressions on their faces. Each one was like a slightly different version of the one before. There were all sorts of races and shapes and forms; and I was thinking, a face is so informative—slightly different eyes, mouth, nose, ears, whatever. And this is how we present ourselves to the world.

Contemporary art
I don’t know if I’m ‘into’ contemporary art. I’m just drawn to things. I’m drawn to everything—seashells, skyscapes, architecture, leaves or children. Everything intrigues me, so if contemporary art fits into that, then I must be into it. But I’m not an expert. I actually feel terribly uneducated, because after I left school I only went to the Royal Academy of Music for a few years then dropped out—most of my life has been about invention/reinvention. Funnily enough, part of me would have loved to have gone into some kind of formal education, just so I could really get it, you know. There’s such a wealth of knowledge to be absorbed—I’ve just done it in this rather vicarious way.

Record covers
I don’t really know how they come about, to be honest. Photo sessions mostly. Photography’s fascinating: every element consciously or unconsciously informs you in a particular way. That creative process of selection, of deciding to focus in on one aspect of whatever it is you’re trying to represent, is wonderful. Pretty intuitive really. I like to think of myself sometimes as a piece of sculpture. On that latest album [Bare, 2003], I was thinking well, I’m an older woman. I felt very vulnerable and I thought, well, I kind of want to reveal myself as I am. From the inside out rather than from the outside in.

Taxis and films
If you sit in the back of a taxi and select a piece of music, you’ll see how what is going on outside connects with what you’re listening to in the most fantastic way. All of a sudden, you’re in a film. Or conversely, if you look at a film and you turn down the sound, it will be different. Then all of a sudden, you listen to how the director has selected the music and it heightens the dramatic quality of what’s going on. It’s phenomenal! In music, where you potentially have melodic line, chordal structures, chordal development and progressions and rhythm—if you break those down, and I do, they are extraordinary in themselves. So there’s all this stuff going on —I feel like a scientist when I discuss it like this, looking at things though a microscope.

It’s like we’re connecting with whatever soul is, whatever that really means, that word.

On my walls
White paint and a Russian painting that I bought in the eighties, by a painter whose name escapes me. It’s a beautiful portrait of a woman standing in a boat, holding a flag. I have a photograph, a black and white portrait of Frida Kahlo. It’s very special. It’s powerful. And what else do I have? I have various things, I have a portrait of a society woman by Diane Arbus, which is beautiful. I did go though a period where I collected a few things, then I just stopped, because I thought, I don’t need any more. I love my house, it’s a wonderful space for me to be in and I don’t need more than this; this is plenty. But you know, wherever I was, if I lived in a bed-sit —and I have lived in many, many bed-sits—I tried to make them my own special space. I’d go and buy postcards of wonderful paintings and I’d put them on the walls.

Frida Kahlo
I think she’s so popular because there was something so self-actualising about her. Even though she was a victim of Diego [Rivera, her husband], in a sense she elevated herself. After her death her work became much greater and that sense of self-actualising her pain is the reason why women identify with her.

Annie Lennox was interviewed by Cedar Lewisohn