Martha Holmes captures the essence of the Cornish coastline through her abstract studies of colour and light. Based at Morgans – a vibrant gallery and studio space in the heart of Falmouth – Martha has established quite the name for herself within the Cornish art scene. We caught up with Martha to learn more about her inspiring work and her connection to the county of Cornwall:
Hi Martha! Can you introduce yourself and your work to our readers please?
I’m a painter based in Falmouth, working from my studio at Morgans alongside working outside in the field. Abstract and often using oil, my practice is a focus on the rich colours and forms found within the landscape, documenting the shift between seasons and the variety in shape between the north and south coasts.
What can you tell us about your artistic background – have you always been creative?
Painting has always been something I’ve been drawn too – since a young age, using colour and marks on paper was something I loved. My parents are both very creative so I was always encouraged to work in that way.
Why do you think you gravitated toward abstract landscapes?
The abstract nature of my work has formed from total absorption in the landscape – spending hours walking, noticing and understanding the identity of the coast. The flat planes of colour and richness in palette within my works has developed from that intensity of time spent along the coast.
What is it about the Cornish landscape that you find so emotive?
I have a strong family connection to Cornwall, especially the north coast, so there has always been a deep rooted love for the landscape in that sense, but I find there is a rawness and honesty to the coastline, which changes all the time. I have always been drawn to the ocean, the presence of the water in contrast to the land is something I frequently explore in my work, I find the ocean is almost meditative in form and the land gives grounding.
Where are some of your favourite places to visit for inspiration?
The West Penwith landscape is a stretch of coastline I am most drawn to. Since I began painting, The St Ives Artists – Heron, Hepworth, Nicholson etc – have been a constant source of inspiration and the stretch of landscape around St Ives and Zennor became significant in the development of my work. So I suppose working in that landscape has a history to it that I love, especially when working among the rugged hills in Zennor close to Eagles Nest where Patrick Heron painted.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process? Do you work with reference images, real life studies, or your imagination?
I shift between working directly in the landscape and working form sketches in the studio. Most recently I have preferred to simply absorb in the landscape, without painting, perhaps just a notebook to record colours or particular feelings I have in that space, and then bring those thoughts full of colour, form and shape back into the studio and allow them to form new paintings.
What was it about Morgans’ studio space that appealed to you?
Morgans was a project my family and I began in 2019, so I’ve been there from the start seeing the identity of the building change massively and the creative energy that my parents injected into it. So Morgans is a very special place for me and working above the gallery in a light filled studio with a glimpse of the harbour is wonderful.
Can you describe what your studio space currently looks like?
My studio sits about the front of the gallery, with a huge sash window in the centre filling the space with lots of natural light which is great for painting. The floor boards are washed white, now covered in paint and original features such as the fireplace and an exposed wall rich in blues and purples sits at one end. The colours in the studio shift as the seasons change. Currently there are a lot of rich greens and deep ochres, referencing those warm autumnal hues found along Zennor.
How would you describe the creative scene in Falmouth and does this impact your own work?
Falmouth has a fabulously vibrant creative scene, both from the injection of the art university and the vast number of creatives and makers who form the identity of the town. There are a lot of small independent shops in Falmouth who support the creative scene and encourage you to have a presence. I think the slow paced way of living down here, the presence of the sea and the importance of the landscape are all ingredients that encourage a creative hub of individuals.
I am often inspired by the creatives who around me, at Morgans I am surrounded by several incredible ceramicists and designers, so this little space alone gives a real creative buzz.
Do you have a dream project that you would love to realize someday?
Last year I bought a van and I’d love to convert it into a studio and travel around Europe and paint – Id love to see how the shift in landscape will alter my work. I’ve heard Brittany has a very similar coastline to Cornwall so that would be a good place to start. I’d also love to go to Scotland, the emptiness and expanses of colour look incredible.
Where can our readers find your work?
My Instagram – @marthaholmes_studio – is the most up to date record of my work, where I share studio shots alongside finished paintings. Gallery wise, Morgans and The New Craftsman are both places I frequently show with.