Bright Lights Shine

By Jo Phillips

Hip new gallery space Grove Square Galleries opened recently in Fitzrovia is showcasing bold new paintings and mixed media works. The Colour of Abstraction: New Ways of Seeing, is a group exhibition featuring work from across their exciting artist roster. An opportunity for the new bright lights to shine. 

Five international young artists have produced new works for the show including Orlanda Broom, Crystal Fischetti, Elena Gual, Harry Rüdham and Marc Standing. We speak to Orlanda Broom about producing art for this exhibition during an extraordinary year.


What can you tell us about your artistic practice and use of materials and colour?

I’ve always been a big fan of colour – my long-standing favourites dating back to discovering them at art school would be artists like Gillian Ayres, Albert Irvin, Alan Davie and Fiona Rae. I graduated in 1997 when the art scene was dominated by YBA’s – I loved aspects of that time, I remember seeing Tracey Emin’s tent at Arnolfini in Bristol and for a few years I was making installations and working with photography. I always loved painting and came back to it when I was living in Lisbon which gave me the space and time to really re-engage with painting. And what surrounded me there was beautiful landscape; I often went camping and I wanted to paint what I saw, the rich colours and wonderful light.

Coming back to London and living a different, more urban life – I found those memories of travel, and a life that I could only really live as a 20 something, really crystallised in my mind. I was desperate to retrace that freedom somehow and so my painting became more and more exotic and colourful, as a response to living in London.  I moved from North West London to Strand on the Green and was there for about six years, living by the river and most importantly by Kew Gardens. I found that being able to sit in the hothouse with a sketch book for a short time restored and inspired me. Those pockets of nature that London offers are amazing – you can feel instantly transported. 


In terms of my artistic practice I generally have several paintings that I work on at the same time, usually in various stages of completion. I like to work intuitively – I never map out or plan a painting. I work with freedom at first, just making lots of marks and seeing what bits are interesting… from those marks come forms and then I start to edit and work out the composition. I work with different acrylic paint mediums and resin because these allow me to make very layered, dense landscape paintings… and retain a vibrant colour palette. I also make abstract paintings which are a distillation of the elements I’m exploring in my landscapes; the effect of one colour against another… the changing qualities of colour as you go from solid to transparent and the effects of light.

As an artist, do you think we can collectively follow the decade of creative change that followed the Great War and Spanish flu once the lockdown ends?

I hope that the impact of Covid won’t be as profound as the Great War and Spanish Flu but I take the point that out of adversity comes change and potential for creativity. We are going to have to think differently about how we live our lives and I think the pandemic and growing awareness around climate change will hopefully cause this shift to happen with more urgency. Collectively it’s a good opportunity to make changes, I think we’ll be less mobile and therefore have to think about what’s around us locally. People are already working differently and our reliance on digital services worries me. At the same time, it’s opened up different ways of communicating and people have had access to things that were closed before. 


How would we do this and what do we need?

Creative resources are more readily available now and hopefully that will continue. Museums and Galleries have had to engage with the public in new ways. Small scale projects and initiatives have gained global traction and you can see the potential in being part of online art communities.

For example, the hashtag artist support pledge, an initiative by artist Mathew Burrows, went viral and became a huge international community of artists helping each other out while they were unable to work, galleries were closed and fairs were cancelled. Another great project was portrait artists creating a physical record of NHS workers and a subsequent book of their artworks. 

As we are still in the middle of this pandemic, it’s hard to know what will come out of this period. If we have more time in our daily lives and are encouraged to think of our environment more… I hope a lot of good could come out of it. I think artists will be responding in all sorts of ways; we are not at a point in history where a ‘movement’ will come out of this. One outcome I predict is a return to materials and skills in terms of making physical things because we’ve become so reliant on tech, it always good to have balance.

Is creativity needed more now than ever?

Absolutely. Art, in all its creative forms, enriches our lives and the scope of what art can do and mean is vast. It can be a small moment such as appreciating a drawing or a piece of music, through to shifting opinions on the big things like climate change. 


The Colour of Abstraction: New Ways of Seeing runs from 4th December – 22 January 2021

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