Laurel Holmes

Laurel Holmes

South Africa | 45 artworks for sale

Our city lives can be harried, bombarded by noise, too much artificial light and hard surfaces. In places where we live - the built environment – truly peaceful and restful moments are not easy to experience. Three years ago when I started painting full time, I began going through the reference material collected over the years from places I have visited where the natural environment captured my ‘imagination’, I could feel my breathing deepen and my heart rate slow, and a powerful, evocative pull to return to these places of serenity and quiet.

I would like my work to catch the viewer’s eye, and cause them to stop, look even for a few seconds, and in that ‘looking’, to feel and to begin to slow one's heart and breath, and even to go somewhere else in their mind.

Charles Scully (1855-1943) (immigrant, poet, farmer, diamond digger and gold prospector and lover of the land) wrote when in the Karoo that he was “close enough to the heart of solitude to hear its beats”.

There is profound restoration in stillness.
A deep love for indigenous flora has been part of my life since my early childhood as was exposure to various forms of art. My mother, a ceramist, was a keen indigenous gardener many years before the majority of gardeners began to explore the beauty of our South Africa plants and trees.

In high school, I took drawing classes at the Johannesburg Art Foundation under Bill Ainslie and Ricky Burnett. After obtaining a BCom, I spent a year (and a bit) studying textile design Natal Technikon before I started working, and later Fine Art at UNISA. At both, my interest in design and texture developed. Years later I took up oil painting with Karin Daymond in Nelspruit, for the first time indulging in my love for rich colour and beginning to explore still life painting.

In the years that followed, painting became more and more part of my life, as did more frequent visits to lonely places in South Africa that could feed my need for solitude and quiet. Through my painting I could reconnect and express my love of the natural spaces and flora of our country, growing my nascent interest in the landscape. Friends or visitors coming to the house would buy paintings straight off my easel, which I had squeezed into a corner of my lounge. The subject matter of my current work is still the South African landscape but looking at those fleeting moments of light or shadow that change the way one sees a particular snapshot of that landscape.

I have works in South African and British collections, some of which were commissioned. At the beginning of 2012, after many years of working in a corporate environment, I began painting full time, my studio being in Johannesburg.

Selected Exhibitions:

Group exhibition, White River    
Group exhibition, White River
Group exhibition, Ten on Russell, Nelspruit
Art Fair, White River, May
Project Group Auction, GIBS, Illovo, Sept
Bamboo, Melville - ‘Stillness’ June
Front Room Art, Pretoria - ‘Tree’ June
In Toto Gallery, Birdhaven - group showing of new artists, August
Bamboo, Melville - ‘Celebrate’ November
Front Room Art & Platform on 18th, Pretoria, Nov
In Toto Gallery, Birdhaven, Showing of new artists, Dec
Gordon Institute of Business Science. Showing of South African artists, Jan
Upstairs@Bamboo, Melville - ‘Pisces” Mar   
Project Group Auction, GIBS, Illovo, May
Solo exhibition: The Studio, Kalk Bay - ‘Light Play’ July
Group exhibition, Kirstenbosch, Sept
Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
The use of digital techniques being incorporated into printworks – for example, Emma Willemse. And always Karin Daymond’s paintings. There’s a ‘pull’ to stand in front of them - even when the painting is physically small, you’re still looking at a large landscape. And I find Peter Eastman’s dark paintings intriguing.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?

Esrom Legae – the sensitivity of line in his drawing and print work, and strength of the images are beautiful. Working in a socio-political environment when it must have been extremely difficult.  

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Frans Oerder’s ‘Magnolias’.

How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?

As children, my mom encouraged my sisters and I to be creative – bake, draw, paint, explore a range of crafts.  When I went to university, I wanted to study Fine Art but not having taken art as a subject at school, I didn’t have the confidence to study it so ended up doing a BCom instead. While working, I started Fine Art through Unisa (but couldn’t finish) and took drawing and painting classes from time to time. I left the corporate environment in 2012 to work as a full time artist, and recently relocated from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I have had painting training with two remarkable artists themselves, Karin Daymond and Ricky Burnett.

What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?

The loss of a visual aesthetic through environmental degradation and the lack of stewardship of our natural resources and natural environs, as well as the impact of this loss of natural areas on the human psyche.

What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?

That my remarkable father, who is in his 90s, until recently was precision-making my canvas stretchers.

Tell us more about your creative process.
There’s no fixed process but usually on visiting a new place and spending some time in a new natural environment, there are new references that relate to something I have been thinking that I work on immediately I return to my studio. Other times, there are ideas that I’ve had but their time is not yet and so they percolate for a period, even years, before permeating into a medium and physical works result. When the time happens, all I want to do is work with this and I experiment, particularly in print, to get to an outcome.   

What drives you as an artist?
I think as with most visual artists, it’s to express oneself in one’s chosen media. A curiosity to see if I can make something beautiful of the reference I am using yet still manage to convey a message through the works.  

Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?

Hard to choose one work, and there are many that I have been very sad to see move to new homes, but there is a landscape painting that parents’ bought (pic attached) that I am very attached to.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
Someone who wanted to buy one of my paintings, on finding that it was sold, said it was fine, as the panting had done its job. She said it evoked a very emotional response (read a seriously good cry), which was worth hours of therapy.

What are your aspirations for the future?
To make bigger work and to move towards making more abstract work.

Pick three artists you would love to exhibit with. Why?

Karin Daymond –  challenges me!
Natasha Norman Moodley – sets the example of (beautiful) ‘abstract’ water environments
Elize Vossgatter – the scale of her paintings is remarkable and would also test my ability to produce work that could hold up

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