Actress turned artist Laura Berger has a talent for creating cool, often comical paintings that look like something from the 70’s with geometric shapes and neutral colour palettes.
Holly Exley is a young British illustrator with some big clients under her belt including Marks and Spencers, Stylist Magazine, Lonely Planet and The Wall Street Journal. Pursuing her natural talent with watercolour painting, Holly has been commissioned to work on projects from illustrating music apps, wildlife and cooking books, and city and charity campaigns. Her illustrations have an uplifting aesthetic with colour washes of wonderful hues, with an emphasis on light and contrast. I really like her food illustrations…food never looked so good! Holly has a blog, website and also a YouTube channel where she talks about her work and the life in the world of illustration.
I was lucky enough to see the Abstract Expressionism Exhibition that was on at The Royal Academy of Arts last year where I got to see master paintings by some of my favourite artists from The New York school such as Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. It was incredible seeing a collection of Franz Kline’s work in person and then being able to see a wall of Clyfford Still paintings in the next room – the exhibition was immense having such a huge amount of significant work all in one gallery.
Odilon Redon is one of the lesser known french artists who contributed to the nascent years of modernism. Part of the 19th century avant-garde circle – although he never considered himself as part of this modernist group, Redon is an artist with diverse sources of inspiration. From Poetry, to music and the natural world to fantasy, Redon’s work is beautiful and strange, bordering on the bizarre. Monsters inspired by folklore creep into enchanting scenes with angelic figures, showing the discontinuity between light and dark.
Redon’s dark charcoal drawings and lithographs evolved into vibrant pastel and oil paintings in the early 20th century. You may have already noticed from his golden colour hues and flat uses of colour, Redon was an admirer of Gustave Klimt and was also influenced by Japanese print.
Starting out with spontaneous mark and colour forms, with little expectation of the end result, her paintings reveal themselves through the process of painting; Betsy Walton creates as she paints. Walton’s work is as expressionistic as it is surreal, from the titles she gives each piece to the half drawn figures and cut out geometric pieces of gold leaf overlapping washes of paint. Her work attempts to reach the sublime, delving into the relationship between objects and people and the sense of mystery behind our everyday encounters. Needless to say her colour palettes are beautifully dream-like, evoking feelings of transcendence to the viewer.
‘We can experience the sublime in the same room where we fold the laundry, and perhaps at the same time.’ – Betsy Walton.
When needing inspiration I often look at one of my favourite art mediums and go from there. Watercolour painting is a versatile and flexible medium that allows artists to create their own colour opacity. It’s a fantastic practice in that it’s unpredictable and can be experimented with in so many ways, from technique to the materials used, to how much water is left on the brush. I always feel overwhelmed painting in watercolours because there are endless possibilities in what you can achieve with them.
I recently went to The Royal Academy of Arts block buster Exhibition, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse. It is worth seeing if you are interested in the Impressionist artists or if you just love floral paintings as it’s full of them. The Exhibition covers the main Impressionist artists, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde artists of the early 20th century, thematising around the modern garden. Monet’s masterpieces being the highlight including his infamous Water Lilies painting, The Agapanthus Triptych. This piece finalizes his career brilliantly – got me a bit teary as they are overwhelmingly beautiful and reflective of Monet’s mental state at the end of his life.
An impressionist artist who’s work really grabbed my attention in the Exhibition was Emil Nolde. He was a German-Danish painter who supported Nazi Germany from the 1920s and believed that Expressionism was a distinctively Germanic style. Hitler considered this art movement ‘degenerative’ and banned artists like Nolde from painting and removed his work from public display. He secretly produced a massive series of water colour paintings that are known as the ‘unpainted pictures’. Nolde painted portraits, landscapes and flowers as his subjects. His brush strokes are vigorous and textural producing expressionistic, luminous paintings – often with sombre undertones, fascinating to see up close.