British artist Roger Holtom's practice is based on the principle of learning through experimentation. He has spent the last three decades creating arresting abstract paintings using a wide variety of media, often combining unexpected materials such as household paints and bitumen, oil paint and sand, acids and pure pigments. Over time Holtom has learned how to manipulate his chosen combinations, resulting in works that are both rooted in his own knowledge but also imbued with the spirit of improvisation.
"My studio is the laboratory in which I do that processing: adding, subtracting, breaking apart and joining together - experimenting over and over again with the ideas that have emerged from my previous play and conducting an ongoing dialogue with the work in progress."- Roger Holtom, June 2018
Whilst the material side of Holtom's practice is based on experimentation and 'play' his intellectual and personal focus is on the exploration of the self. His works are all rooted in his own history and development as an intuitive painter. Each mark he makes is planned and each piece he paints is intentional. There is an alchemy at work, developed over years and years of, as he himself describes it, play. With this comes a sense of sheer joy and exuberance, something that radiates from each piece.
There is nothing forced about Holtom's abstract compositions, they flow naturally from the mind and body of an artist in complete control of his work.
Holtom is very cautious when it comes to describing the moment a work is actually finished, it is something that only he can see. Holtom tells us that he just knows and is spontaneously overcome by a sense of resolution and of a personal and private nature. His methodical preparation; the ritualistic clearing of his studio, the arrangement of materials he is planning on using, the hours spent visualising and mentally shaping the final piece, allow Holtom the freedom to paint and create works without being constrained by strict rules or pre-determined outcomes.
As an artist Roger Holtom fully immerses himself in his work, both physically and emotionally. The elemental and nostalgic side of him clashes against the energy and power of his creative process, resulting in works that often surprise, delight and connect with the viewer. We cannot help but be moved by his paintings, our minds and bodies responding to what we see before us and how it literally makes something click in our minds.
Over twenty-five years ago, at the peak of his former career as a professional cellist, Holtom began experimenting with paint and found that it allowed him "a refreshingly different type of expression than through classical music... a means of indulging [his] long-standing fascination with the craft of the improviser." Unlike the transience of a musical performance, Holtom enjoys the permanence of an artwork which can be appreciated long after its conception.
Common to both visual art and music, principles of composition, tonality, texture, rhythm and nuance are prevalent in Holtom's work. Even his very painting technique has been affected by his former life as a professional cellist; he is very physical, painting with his whole body, throwing paint at the board, and using his core strength to distress and wash the surface of his works.