Orlanda Broom came Runner Up in our inaugural Jackson’s open Art Prize, as well as winning the early entry award. She most often uses resin and acrylic to create her highly exotic landscapes. The paintings are decadent in their use of colour, and visually arresting. So what’s been happening for Orlanda since? In this interview she tells us about a monumental commission for a New York Hotel, and the effect on her work of moving out of London Town.
Lisa: I interviewed you for the blog a couple of years ago, just before you came runner up in the Jackson’s Open Art Prize 2016 and won the early entry award. What have been the highlights within your practice since then?
Orlanda: I think the major highlight has been working on a large-scale painting, which was commissioned for the then new Four Seasons Hotel in New York. This was the largest painting I’ve made and everything got put on the backburner to get it completed. Then to visit, see it there and talk a little bit about it was brilliant… it’s had a really great response.
I had a couple of other large-scale commissions and it’s been a lovely to work on big things this past year.
Lisa: The Four Seasons Hotel Commission looks epic! There’s some great documentation on your website. How big was the commission and what were the greatest challenges about the job?
Orlanda: The commissioned painting for the Four Seasons was triptych measuring 4×4 meters over all, the central section being the largest section with two narrow side sections. My biggest challenge initially was finding a space that could house the canvas and where I would have enough space to work and get distance back from the painting to view it. My studio at the time was in West London and on the first floor so it was not possible to do it there and I spent many weeks searching around London to hire a temporary space. Eventually I realized I’d have to look outside London and found a large industrial unit on a farm.
Further challenges were mainly logistical, making a large sub-frame for the canvas to lean on and finding the right ladders to use; scaffolding was too cumbersome and I had a couple of close scrapes maneuvering it, almost ripping the canvas. I also needed 4 or more people to move it when I needed to – luckily for me there were people around to help!
In terms of painting it, I was worried that scaling up to this size would be tricky as much of my painting is very centric to mark-making… but once I got started it was great to work on the larger scale and actually scaling back down has been trickier in a lot of ways.
Lisa: You’ve been shortlisted for quite a few prestigious prizes now, including the Threadneedle Prize and the National Open Art Competition, and accepted for lots of Open Submission shows. How much does it mean to you for your work to be recognised in this way?
Orlanda: Submission shows are well worth entering and it’s always a confidence boost to get accepted and if you don’t you can’t take it personally! It’s good exposure for your work and you meet other artists along the way.
Lisa: Do you ever have moments when feel the urge to paint something that doesn’t look exotic? Do you feel limited by your reputation as a painter of exotic, fantastical landscapes?
Orlanda: My latest painting ‘Passing’ is much more toned down in colour and I’ve deliberately used a limited palette. I recently moved out of London to Hampshire and I can see the influence of my immediate environment seeping in. I see shifts in my work and there is a progression of ideas so I don’t feel limited… it’s really important to keep paintings fresh and that may be by theme or change of palette or materials used. I also make abstract paintings, which are a completely different way of working that compliments the layered aspect of my landscapes.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about the surfaces that you work on? How do you prepare them for painting?
Orlanda: I pretty much always work on canvas but over different sub-frames. For large work I now always use aluminum sub-frames as they won’t warp and they are light and easy to move. I like different types of surface whether it’s a flexible or hard ground and I use various types of primer especially when preparing for an abstract painting as some areas will be left revealed and it directly affects the line you get. Good quality primer and starting with a nice surface is important.
Lisa: How do you know when a painting is finished?
Orlanda: I get a good feeling… it’s satisfaction that I’ve sorted out all the little niggles that I’d have been working on in the final stages of a painting and knowing that to add anything else would be too much.
Lisa: Was it difficult painting ‘Manna Hatta’ from the point of view of having others’ expectations hanging over you? Because you work quite intuitively I imagine you need to make it quite clear that the resulting painting might look completely different to the original intention?
Orlanda: I work on a lot of commissioned paintings now and haven’t found it hampers my creativity. I think people commissioning art are quite realistic about the process and that it’s not painting by numbers or copying an older piece of work. It’s important that you give an overall sense of your body of work and not just look at one example. I don’t plan out my paintings, they evolve on the canvas and as long as that is clear from the start there’s no reason to feel inhibited. With large-scale commissions, generally you are working with an art consultant who will be integral to the process and makes sure that this approach is communicated.
Lisa: How do you hope your work will develop in 2018?
Orlanda: I moved out of London this year and so there’s been a big change to my life and working environment. I have a larger studio in the countryside that will allow me to make large-scale work without all the logistical hassle I had in preparing to make ‘Manna Hata’. An ongoing theme in my work is the sense of a lost place or environment and so I want to do research into wildernesses and environmental impact. I can see my work changing quite a bit; I can’t predict it really but there should always be a progression otherwise your work can get stale – so new environments, themes, materials – whatever form it will be, there’ll be a change.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Orlanda: At the moment I am just completing a commission and working on some new paintings. I’ve recently started working in oils again now that I have a bit more space for things to dry! I’ve also started these new paintings on black gesso grounds so they already feel quite different to me.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Orlanda: My website www.orlandabroom.com is regularly updated and you can subscribe to my mailing list. Anyone can get in touch with me directly. I am going to have my first Open Studio at my new studio early next year so sign up to get news about that and other exhibitions. My Vimeo page has a couple of short films about making Manna-Hata, https://vimeo.com/orlandabroom
Online I sell smaller paintings online with New Blood Art, Art Masters https://newbloodart.com/
And in the flesh, I’m very excited to be part of an exhibition called ‘Fresh Paint’ at Messums Wiltshire in January 2018. This is a show of international artists focusing on painting and will feature several of my larger works, both landscape and abstract. http://messumswiltshire.com/
Header Image: Orlanda Broom’s ‘Manna Hatta’ in progress