"When a painting turns out right, it’s the best feeling in the world. If I can make people smile, great. If I can make them think, even better. I want them to access their humanity. You can’t ask for more than that."
British Artist Holly Frean, originally trained as an architect but painting soon took over. Her interest in art and design started growing up in her parents' textile design studio where she was surrounded by designers, art books and got to practice her basic artistic skills.
Holly Frean's art is full of oblique - and playful - glimpses into the lives of artists and the history of art. Her work acknowledges the fragility of art and celebrates its triumph. Through her imaginative projections Frean shows how great art is created amidst the mundane cares and trivial interests of an artist's life. Small, seemingly insignificant moments like Rothko stretching or Picasso picnicking are captured alongside “larger” events like Lucian Freud painting Queen Elizabeth’s portrait.
Talking about her multi-image work style Frean says: "It is pure conjecture! Everything is loosely based on what I’ve read in books or seen on the walls of galleries. It’s not historical facts and narratives I’m interested in repeating in my own work; I am visualising how an artist’s day is spent or how a sculpture was made or what a studio crit might be like with them. Painting it out makes it real and concrete."
In these tiny little images, we get a film-strip like glimpse into a day or event in the life of the artist. Frean keeps her compositions simple so that much is conveyed with a small amount of visual information. The grids read almost like an Instagram feed, screen captures of each instant, which may reveal much or leave much to the imagination.
Over the past decade Frean has evolved a succinct and abbreviated style. It is a brilliant technical achievement, at once highly personal and highly effective. It has been born out of long years of close observation as well as a rigorous training in draughtsmanship. Frean began her career as a relatively conventional portrait painter, and it is this background that now allows her to suggest so much with so little: the shape of a head, the line of chin, the set of a neck, the weight of a stance are enough to give and full account of a face or figure.
Frean has exhibited extensively in the UK and America. In 2012 she won the National Open Art Competition painting prize (awarded by Grayson Perry), as well has having her work selected by the critic Skye Sherwin for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London.
Frean's work will exhibit at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery as part of our Mix: Summer Group Show 2016, opening on July 29th.