GAIL BRODHOLT

“I suppose what I’m really interested
in is those unconsidered and unnoticed
places that people pass through”

Gail Brodholt is a leading painter and printmaker of contemporary urban landscapes. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE).

She was born in South London to immigrant parents, her father Norwegian and her mother from Trinidad.

“I suppose what I’m really interested in is those unconsidered and unnoticed places that people pass through. They are on their way to somewhere else, presumably more important – on the escalators, on the tube, train station platforms, motorways….

“I like the sense we all have that between here and there anything can happen. Although of course it almost always doesn’t. When you are travelling you are free from normal life with all the anticipation of an adventure ahead of you.”

Gail is both a painter and a printmaker and finds that working in one medium informs and enhances the other.

She has published two lithographs in collaboration with the Curwen Studio. She currently holds the post of Honorary Curator of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

Destinations and Departures

By Gaia Rosenberg Colorni, gallerist

A Londoner born and bred, Gail Brodholt has always had a particular kinship with the urban environment. She returns to Cambridge Contemporary Art with Destinations and Departures, a solo show on journeys both literal and metaphorical, featuring new cityscapes and scenes from her most celebrated subject matter: the London transport network.

Working mainly with lino, Gail aptly strives to push the medium further than commonly envisaged by combining her draughtsman-like precision with the emotive, atmospheric rendering of the places she explores. An expert oil painter as well as printmaker, she bridges the gap between the two by incorporating traditionally painterly techniques such as glazing and impasto in her linocuts.

The rich, vibrant pigments Gail uses lend themselves beautifully to the depiction of man-made environments, conveyed in their full dynamicity by the moving crowd, artificial lighting, bright screens and billboards. Quieter atmospheric elements such as the weather, the time of day and the passing of seasons are also carefully considered in the artist’s colour choice, capturing the subtle and ever-shifting moods of a place with remarkable sensibility.

Insistently in Gail’s work the concepts of belonging, alienation and ‘non-place’, a term coined by anthropologist Marc Augé to describe transitory spaces such as airports and stations, are investigated. While city living is portrayed in an everyday and contemporary context, the urban landscape becomes infused with a bittersweet sense of melancholy and nostalgia, alluding to the gone-by golden age of train travel. People often remain concealed and anonymous within the setting, estranged from the scene as if they too were mere contemplators of it.

The ephemeral moment, in its uttermost intensity, becomes the core event to be captured in Gail’s work. Here the voyage between Destinations and Departures begins, ultimately transporting the viewer to an inner rather than physical space.

Tomorrow’s Transport Art Today

By Aaron Lee, writer

Never mind the weather. The mother of all icebreakers is public transport. Every city dweller has an opinion on public transport, an opinion which is often swiftly followed by a disaster story or two. And, given the demands of modern life, it’s not surprising that so many of us cringe at the thought of public transport.

We’ve got ourselves so wrapped up in how much of a ‘nightmare’ it can be that we rarely stop to appreciate the special moments that do occur on public transport. Those quiet introspective thoughts that bubble up as you wait for your Tube train. That victorious and slightly relieved feeling of catching the last train home, while your mind plays back strange encounters from that night. The stories told and the secrets shared with friends as you travelled together.

Gail Brodholt makes oil paintings that bring forth precisely these feelings. Much of her work depicts the London transport network, and it’s a world away from the dull, robotic discourse of the news, with its ‘commuters’ and its ‘maintenance works’. There’s a stillness to her work, and a continuous reaffirming of distance. Train tracks, power lines, lighting and platform edges draw your eye further into her intricately detailed paintings.

Take the image Remember Me – the figures, and their trailing shadows, against the pastel sky perfectly evoke the atmosphere of the end to an unusually long day. It’s about bidding someone farewell, and perhaps the guy and girl in the foreground are the focus, but there are many other ways you could interpret this: A memory long past, the final parting before leaving for a new town and a new life or the end of a relationship.

That’s what I love about Gail’s pieces: they’re each in their own way individualistic snapshots of life on London transport that, deliberately or not, invite the viewer to put their own narrative, their own mood, at the heart of it. For me that’s a dash of solitary epiphanies, a twist of melancholy and at least as much romance as some of my favourite detective films.

It’s wonderful to see an artist expressing another side to London’s transport system, which is so often vilified as just an urban nuisance: noisy, uncomfortable rides between one temporary space and another. Transport in London has always had a strong identity. Gail’s oil paintings express the stillness, the intricate genius and the unappreciated beauty we encounter every day on our journeys across the city. That’s a sentiment I never want to forget.

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