Bethany Holmes: a beauty in the fight
Dr Matt Retallick

In a field in rural Essex, Bethany Holmes conceives her energetic and expressive paintings. From a secluded studio, she takes inspiration from her surroundings, but the works she creates are not landscapes, but instead a layering of experience. There is no attempt to capture topographical imprint, no interest in the plein-air, instead it is the shifting light, changes in temperature, and the ways colours interact that give her inspiration. Walks through the countryside offer a means to collect different tones and shades rather than views, and these are the impetus for her abstractions, distillations of a visual essence. Bethany begins every new piece with a meditative colour mixing, a search for the right palette in a reflective excavation. This attentive exercise serves as a mindful primer towards the activity of painting – tones are recollections, and each is refined until a decisive synergy is revealed. Mixing is thinking, but painting is impulse.

Her approach is frenetic, committing paint to a given surface with rapidity and abandon, and she describes this as being loud and that it occurs with a burst. Working in close proximity to a surface, an urgent and unconscious rhythm takes over her in a vigorous visual cacophony. Brushes, which keep within the span of the hand, become decision makers as she strikes – briskly sweeping and jabbing – there is a beauty in the fight.

Colour is a path to be followed, and Bethany has a hyperawareness of the nuances, vibrations, and implications of a given palette. For example, she has a strong dislike for ‘crude’ artificial hues and has instead garnered an instinctive and harmonious colouration. This is because such shades, she says, help to convey an emotional resonance, alluding to something indelibly transformed. She often adds black into the mix as it has the ability to temper and cool, but also secures a positive imperfection, something Bethany relishes. Each painting only becomes final once a ‘perfect imbalance’ is reached. Sometimes this happens in a matter of hours, in other cases several years, but every work is an equally loaded palimpsest of time.

The neutral is also due to a love of the organic and natural, and her abstractions even take a cue from her life-drawing roots, a foundational activity that she returns to regularly. Like her colour mixing, it is a preparation for the mind, a means to reset, to think at a different pace, as counter to the dizzying exertions of painting. It is also human reconnection, the memory of a bodily contour. This is then subtly carved in charcoal, a passionate gesture as an initial foothold in one sense, but the end point of an exploration in another. Each painting is a journey executed with an empowered confidence. They are emotive battles that are about living, the passages of life converging, experience layered, of simply being in the moment.

Current Exhibitions, Residencies & Projects

Silson Contemporary
17 Harlow Oval, Harrogate HG2 0DS

Milieu Studios
The Old Custom House, Wharf Road, St Ives, TR26 1LF

Drift Gallery 
15 High Street, Nantwich CW5 5AH

‘Bethany’s paintings are a perfect harmony of impulsive, energetic mark making and softer looser gestural movements.

Bethany’s ability to control complete colour chaos and composition is what defines her paintings and showcases her unique style. The intensity and striking depth of field in her works are always so impressive and utterly charming’

Director at Milieu Studios

Selected Group & Solo Exhibitions

No Place like Home, Milieu Studios, St Ives, 2024
Summer Show, Drift Gallery, Nantwich, 2024
Summer Show, Silson Contemporary, Harrogate, 2024
2024 Spring Show, Silson Contemporary, Harrogate, 2024
Finding Time, Chesneys, Kings Road, London, 2024
Making a Mark, Milieu Studios, St Ives, 2023
Ever Changing, Chesneys, Kings Road, London, 2024
Art for Charity Collective, 2022


Shortlisted for Blue Shop Galleries ‘Works on Paper 6’, March 2024

Colloborations/ Press

Work featured in Elle Decoration with Romo Fabrics, February 2024
Work selected to feature in Romo Fabrics photoshoot, January 2024
91 Magazine, Meet the Maker, January 2024
Featured artist in Artwalk Magazine, 2021

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