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'Liberty with Order: The Art of Improvisation' - New solo show by Roger Holtom

Roger Holtom

'Liberty with Order: The Art of Improvisation'

Private View and Cello Performance by the artist - Tuesday 2nd June, 6.30-8.30pm


Creativity exists in the searching even more than in the finding or being found. It is in play, and only in play, that we are able to be creative and use our whole personality. The act of play is its own destination.

(Stephen Nachmanovitch)

Roger Holtom grew up in South Yorkshire where the rugged beauty of the Peak district combined with the explosive drama of the steel industry provided rich visual backdrops for his developing creative imagination. The youngest son of Pleasaunce Holtom, a fine artist trained at Londons Slade School of Fine Art, he received a comprehensive education in the craft of painting through observation. He was actively encouraged to explore his personal creativity and at the age of six began learning to play the piano and cello. Classical music became an absorbing passion for the young artist, leading him to obtain a degree in musical composition and subsequently to pursue a career as a cellist. Throughout his teenage years, Holtom also developed a profound admiration for the giants of Jazz music in the twentieth century - something that was to greatly influence his career as an artist.

Twenty-five years ago, whilst living in Sydney Australia and playing the cello in a string trio lead by the Concertmaster of the Opera Orchestra, Holtom began experimenting with paint and found that it offered him a more complete freedom of expression than within the strict practice of classical music. Principles of composition, tonality, texture, rhythm and nuance being common to both disciplines, he was able to take his knowledge of these fundamentals and apply them to an investigation into the art of improvisation through the medium of paint. The formal structure of classical music and an inherited understanding of the traditions of painting thus formed a framework within which Holtom was able to develop his own unique contribution to visual art.

'La Divina Commedia' (triptych) | mixed media on board | 98 x 240 cm

In his current body of work, Holtom has sought to manifest a sense of the ephemeral nature of the subconscious through the principles of Jazz improvisation. In much the same way that a great Jazz musician reinvents that musical genre, ensuring that it is never allowed to stagnate, so too Holtom's work embodies a quality which challenges any argument regarding the obsolescence of painting. Standing before his paintings it is impossible to remain unmoved by their profound depths and intriguing surfaces. Roger Holtom's work not only proves that the practice of painting is still very much alive, but gives us a sense that it conceivably may have just been reinvented.

As Holtom himself describes his creative processes: 

The essence of the Jazz musicians craft is to take elements from the music of those they admire, which then become the building blocks for their own work. A unique library of patterns and techniques, these elements are adapted, personalised and internalised ready to be accessed as required by the demands of any new musical circumstance. In much the same way, my years of free experimentation as a painter have given me a similarly personalised portfolio of techniques - some borrowed from other artists, others invented as a response to the demands of a particular situation.

'Don Chisciotte' | mixed media on board | 107 x 107 cm

Musical influences on his most recent work include the ongoing study and assimilation of the architectural beauty of J.S. Bach’s six suites for solo cello. Drawing together the various elements of his practice, this exhibition - and the live musical performance accompanying the Private View - will provide a unique opportunity to witness first hand the work of an artist at the peak of his powers.

Roger Holtom’s paintings awaken our senses. The physicality of the artist is present in the artwork itself, breathing life and vigour into the materials that he uses. Surface textures, compositional rhythms and tonal depths combine resulting in paintings that resonate with a sense of our shared experience of humanity.

Gallery Hours:

June 2-6. Tuesday-Saturday 12-6pm
June 7-14. By appointment

Please contact the gallery for further details

Earlier Event: March 14
Art Central Hong Kong