Last word with Gulja Holland

Last Word with Gulja Holland

First magazine, out with The Malta Independent on Sunday

After graduating from Leeds College of Art in 2015 with a BA in Fine Arts, Gulja Holland put together a striking body of work for her first successful solo exhibition, Altered Egos, the following year, which cemented her name in the Maltese art scene. We catch up with Gulja before her second solo show of abstract paintings inspired by the ongoing environmental issues that we face.

When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? I was the child who was drawing all day instead of paying attention in class so I guess art was always a large part of who I am. The funny thing is I think everyone around me made up their mind that I would be the artist before I did! I got alot of praise and encouragement for my paintings from my family, who are all creative in their own way, so I went with what I knew and enjoyed doing. Where did you study? Leeds College of Art remains of the highest ranked art and design institution in the UK boasting alumni such as Damien Hirst, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Kramer. It’s a college I’d recommend for anyone wanting to study for a BA Fine Arts in a more affordable city than London. What is your favourite medium and why? Acrylics remain my favourite medium because I find them the easiest to work with.They’re fast-drying,safe to work with and I like the crisp colours and edges you can achieve. How would you describe your  style of painting? Expressive, experimental and vibrant in colour, even when the theme has a dark and serious undertone. I love to incorporate elements of other media in my paintings,such as photography and textiles,to create a new visual code of representation. Did or do you have a mentor? No, although I’m fortunate to have many friends in the creative field who are able to provide critical feedback whenever I need it. The latest collection is very different to your last: what has been the inspiration? My inspiration began when I first stumbled across Dale Frank’s work. I was in my third year of college and a nearby paint shop was offering its old stock of enamel oil paints for next to nothing. That’s when I first started experimenting and realised how much I enjoyed exploring their properties. They’re very different to artist quality oil paints in that they have a low viscosity, high gloss and they create gorgeous patterns when the colours run and bleed into each other. I had to shelve the project for a while as I had already started working towards my degree show and first solo exhibition and then I started working on them again last year. Although the paintings are abstract, their composition and colours reference internet sourced photographs showing our impact on the natural environment. Describe your typical painting day, preparing for the upcoming show? The truth be told, I don’t think I’ll be working with them again as they are quite toxic when wet! I try to work very quickly, spending no more than three hours at a time. Even though I have all the windows open in my studio,if I work on them for any longer I begin to get dizzy. Using a lot of varnish allows me to create translucent layers of colour to add depth to the work with each painting session. What is your greatest creative inspiration? My work tends to be quite topical so I suppose it’s observing whatever is around me. When or if I feel I have something interesting enough to say I’ll begin thinking about how I can communicate that idea or aesthetic effectively and what other artists I should be looking at who have managed to execute something similar.
The exhibition, entitled From a Distance, took place from 27 May to 24 June at Lily Agius Gallery, 54 Cathedral Street, Sliema. For more information about the artist you can email or The exhibition was supported by Attard & Co, Autosales, Dyo Paints, Sarto, Satariano, Steve & Co., Artpaper, La Bottega, Gallery Last Touch and Autosales.




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