Hometown: Curl Curl, Sydney
With three generations of artists preceding her, it’s hardly surprising that Ash Holmes now calls painting her full-time job. Drawing inspiration from nature and earth-toned palettes, Ash’s work carefully considers sensory responses to colour choice (one of her favourite colours, pink, is used to calm violent prisoners in jail) and is recognisable in her abstract, organic brushstrokes that fill large stretches of canvas. The talented young artist’s large-scale oil paintings have found their way into galleries and homes across the globe, far from her airy studio in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I caught up with Ash to find out more about colour psychology and seeing her work on walls across the world.
You come from a long line of artists. How would you describe the artistic styles of your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother?
I’d describe them all as very unique to one another. My great-grandmother, Madge, painted the camo swatches for WWII and war posters, and was also a beautiful portrait painter. My grandma Glenys typically paints landscapes from the Australian countryside—she was friends with Lloyd Rees and that era of artists—and my mother Christina has spectacular charcoal figurative sketches and warm-toned, oil paint seascape paintings.
What’s something you learnt from them that you employ in your artmaking process today?
Keep an open mind to experimenting across different types of materials. I tend to use linen fabric, charcoal sticks, oil pastels, coffee, sand, acrylic paint, oil paint and charcoal in my work. I’d say I’ve inhabited Mum’s colour palette mostly.
What’s one of your favourite spaces you’ve seen an artwork of yours end up in?
Most recently, in a newly-built house in Palm Beach, where my pieces TWIINS now lives. The largest piece I’ve completed is a diptych piece, that now hangs in a house in West Hollywood. It’s incredible seeing pieces hanging insitu in different areas of the world.
What’s one of the most noticeable changes you can see in your work, since you first started doing this full-time?
It’s getting larger in scale and is becoming less about the subject in the work, and more so about the colour palette.
How does scale play a role in your work?
Large-scale works allow me to completely express the impact and large movements that I need to use in order for the work to tell its story to the full potential. I absolutely love painting large-scale pieces, although small pieces allow me to focus on one section for longer lengths of time, like my piece Goji Berry.
You find inspiration in nature—have the recent months of indoor isolation had an effect on your work at all?
Not a noticeable amount. I’ve been going on long walks along the harbour-side, I feel full of ideas after being amongst nature and its generous colour palette.
You’ve been studying The Psychology of Colour and Symbolism. What have you learnt from it, and how do you see it taking shape in your work?
I’ve always felt connected with colour, in particular pink. I was so curious as to why we’re drawn in by certain colour schemes and repelled by others. Studying each colour and its sensory effect has reaffirmed why I use certain colours and why they work together in harmony. If you look up ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ there are amazing research studies on why pink is the most calming colour.
What was the last thing that you read, saw, or heard that inspired you?
The Tracey Emin documentary.
What’s another talent people might not know you have?
I love playing guitar as much as I love painting.
Whose wall would you love for one of your artworks to end up on?
Oh! Debbie Harry, Margot Robbie, Michèle Lamy or Rick Owens, because I think their houses would be amazing.