Meet the Maker: Martha Holmes

Join landscape and still life painter Martha Holmes in The Shop at Petersham Nurseries Richmond from Monday 20th April – Sunday 26th April 2020 as she sets up studio.
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I am a painter living & working in Cornwall, working both plein air in the landscape and from my studio in Falmouth. My paintings are a reaction to the coastal environment which has always surrounded me, frequently inspired by the abstract and modern direction many of the St Ives Artists brought to the West of Cornwall. Fascinated by the shifting identity of both the north and south coastlines, my work is a reaction to the changing light, structures and colours that surround me whilst I paint.

Process and the space I work in has always been important – working directly within the landscape allows an immersive experience, reflected in the brush strokes and energy of the work, which I have begun to translate into my still life studies.

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Tell us about you, how did get to where you are? 

I am a painter living and working in Falmouth, Cornwall. I have had a love for Cornwall since a young age – some of my family live on the North coast and my interest in landscape painting grew from a lot of time spent exploring the coast. I properly moved to Cornwall to study on my Art Foundation and subsequently my degree in Graphic Design. I continued to paint through out my degree, with my design work often being inspired by fine artists rather than specifically graphic designers. After my degree I set up as a painter full time – I still work on some freelance design in between, but usually for clients that have a natural cross over with my painting, so often print and publication design for art establishments.

How would you describe your work in three words?

Immersive / seasonal / reflective

Where do you feel most inspired and who inspires you?

I feel most inspired when I am outside on the coast exposed to the changing weather. If I had to specify a place it would be St Ives. I spend a lot of time documenting its landscape and working form the Porthmeor Studios. My initial love for painting was sparked from my love for the St Ives artists – Heron, Hepworth, Nicholson… It was the connection they made through their work to the landscape that fascinated me – whether expressed through sculpture or paint, the narrative and sense of place they captured continues to resonate and inspire how I work today.

You make it really clear that all landscape works are painted directly in the landscape or from the studio window when painting at the Porthmeor Studios, why is this so important to you?  

My work is very elemental – I look to capture a moment or change in the appearance of the landscape. Working in the open air or at the Porthmeor Studios allows my work to have that sense of immediacy that working from a photograph doesn’t offer. It’s not just the visual changes but the whole sensory experience of being directly in the landscape that contributes to how I paint.

As well as broad landscapes, your work also focusses on still life subjects – how does your creative process differ? 

My approach to the still life pieces takes a similar form to my landscapes. I try not to overthink the subject matter by just using objects or bowls that are in my studio and foliage and wild picks from the hedgerows along the coast. I focus on recording the colour and structure in their simplest form – naturally the backgrounds often resemble elements of a landscape.

What materials do you most like to work with? Does it differ depending on subject? 

I always work in oil – it offers rich pigments to work with that best reflect the natural tones in the landscape. Being able to work into the oil allows me to alter the painting alongside the changes in the weather in that moment. I predominately work on board – I use a warm brown tone which forms a basis for the paintings. I allow glimpses of the wood to show through, especially when painting seascapes – it gives a warmth to the work.

What does the next few years look like for you and what are you most excited about?

One of the biggest changes to my practice later this year will be my studio space. My family and I are working on a new project in Falmouth at the moment, renovating a period building into artists studios and a gallery space. Being absorbed in an arts space with other like minded creatives such as potters and designers will offer new ways of thinking and hopefully encourage more of a two way conversation around my work. Besides that, I am working towards a solo show at the New Craftsman in St Ives later this year and generally looking to give more time to experimentation and hopefully space to travel with my work.

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