Laurel Holmes

Laurel Holmes

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Stillness. A word that evokes a deep intuitive need in me to be able to retreat to a tranquil place - be it through meditation or simply grounding oneself in a place that inspires peace. This body of work results from actual places of stillness - where the quiet could be overwhelming but for my yearning to be soothed by stillness.
Quiet doesn’t preclude sound - most of these still places have the discreet sounds of wind, insects and birds. So different to the ambient noise of the built-up environment that seems to insidiously penetrate one’s consciousness, even when it seems ‘quiet’.
These works were inspired by visits to Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga, the Karoo and the Kalahari - places where quiet is their predominant feature.
Our city lives can be harried, and in places where we live - the built environment - restful moments are not easy to experience. This year, 2012, I made the decision to paint full time. When 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. The process of revisiting engendered a powerful, evocative pull to return to these places of serenity and quiet.
In this body of work, my aim is to paint imagery that resonates with other people and in that resonance, to catch the viewer’s eye, and cause them to stop, even for a few seconds, and create calmness. To take a moment to look at something, 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.
Research on breath and heart coherence documents the resonance between head, heart and gut. A cause of this resonance is an emotive response to visual triggers. What I hope to achieve in this body of work is that slowing down for the viewer.
As for the bones - they are still as they are ‘dead’ but have a beauty of their own in the smooth planes of the bones, the rough detailed areas where they are worn or are alive with bone eating bacteria. Stop and look.
William Charles Scully (1855-1943) (immigrant, poet, farmer, diamond digger and gold prospector and lover of the land) wrote 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:

2005
Group exhibition, White River    
2006
Group exhibition, White River
Group exhibition, Ten on Russell, Nelspruit
2011
Art Fair, White River, May
Project Group Auction, GIBS, Illovo, Sept
Bamboo, Melville - ‘Stillness’ June
2012
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
2013
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?
Philemon Hlungwani and Karin Daymond’s drawings and prints - their subject matter, drawing styles and the marks they make are fascinating.

Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?

Frans Oerder - his art career was tough and yet he managed to stay true to his need to paint. I never get tired of looking at pictures of his work, especially his later works.

Which exhibition that you have visited made the greatest impact on you and why?

Dylan Lewis’s collaborative exhibition in Kirstenbosch Gardens (with Ian McCallum and Enrico Daffonchio). His sculptures are so powerful which combined with the relevant poetry in a very meaningful architectural space was able to pass across very compelling messaging about the natural environment and man’s current role in it.  

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
From the natural environment from places in South Africa that I have visited specifically because there is a ‘pull’ to those places, and then from the everyday environment around me in my home.

What do you like most about being an artist?

Being free to ‘look’ at everything!

How do you handle bad days when you experience artist's block?

Pick up a brush, put on some music and start. Things flow soon after that. Like any other job, when things are hard to start, just start and the hardest part is done.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

Leap of faith - quitting the corporate world - and finding that people do respond to my work and have purchased it. (Its only been 9 months but I have sold 40 paintings this year so far. The emphasis is not on the sales but the response to my work).

Do you feel that you want to make a difference to the world or in people's lives? If yes, how?

To make people stop and see - not necessarily exactly what I see - but to notice the natural environment in its perfection and purity; to change the way they view the natural environment and feel its quiet and its pull. To stop and slow down - life is too harried, and to call people to notice that this busy-ness is not everything in the bigger scheme of life.

What are your plans for the coming year?

A monoprint workshop in July at The Artists Press in White River; more landscape paintings from visits to the Karoo and Bredasdorp areas