Gillian Lever

The brilliance of colour

2024 has started joyfully working on a series of new oil canvases in the studio. I have been loving the emerging colours of Spring in the garden and on local walks and have also been enjoying studying Vuillard’s enigmatic use of colour and light. Earlier in the year we visited the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille where I was captivated by his ‘Still Life with a bouquet of roses.’

Winifred Nicholson is another artist who I find truly inspirational in relation to colour - her writing, as well as her painting, is so vibrant.

”Each colour is unique, but no colour can stand alone. To get the full value of its unique colour it must have other hues by its side, not for mere contrast, as black, say, contrasts with white, or square with circle, but prismatically to break up the rays of colour, as a shuttlecock is tossed, to and from the waves of light. Thus all the most brilliant things of nature are composed of tiny facets or mirrors which re-reflect each other - a kingfisher’s breast, jay’s feather, butterfly’s wing, fish’s scales, flower petals in all their transparency - each may appear one hue, but in reality under a microscope are made up of many varied hues in true harmony, heightening each other’s brilliance. So we cull our colours here and there, up and down the scale to create the particular colour we have in mind.”

Winifred Nicholson

Later in 2024 Jake and I are planning an Open Studios event here in Birmingham - a focus for my harmonic experiments.


Jake Lever

How can art generate hope?

“Creativity  is inherently a spiritual technology, and a hopeful posture, to align oneself as a creative is to align oneself with hope as a practice and claim that as an identity.”     

Hillary McBride

I was recently invited by Professor Emma Mawdsley from Cambridge University to contribute a presentation to a new course called Geographies of Hope for final year undergraduate students in Geography.  The course invites practitioners from diverse disciplines (the arts, architecture, sustainability etc) to share stories of hope so that students are equipped to envisage a positive future in the face of the climate crisis, growing inequality etc. It stems from a belief that it is the responsibility of educators to signpost students to sources of hope in a world that can feel bleak, overwhelming and hopeless. 

I shared my story of working with the archetype of the boat, highlighting the sense of loss and vulnerability in an empty vessel alongside the sense of possibility, potential and hope that is embodied within it. In particular I focussed upon Do the Little Things, the pandemic project I co-ordinated that enabled people to send tiny gilded boats as symbols of love, affection and solidarity.  Finally, I concluded by summarising the ways that the arts, in a broader sense, can serve as catalysts for hope; 

  • Remembering the past - art can help us to recall the past, including the movements, pioneers and shifts in consciousness that speak to our present.
  • Connecting human to human - seeing our common, shared human experience expressed in works of art breaks down isolation and fosters connection and solidarity.
  • Transforming at heart level - art creates empathy between people and moves people in the heart and guts where real transformation takes place.
  • Imagining and communicating new possibilities - artists imagine alternative futures, different ways of of living with each other that open up possibilities and challenge the status quo.

I ended by inviting each student to take away a newly printed image, a tiny etching based upon my current interest in webs, to use as a starting point for a conversation with someone and to connect around what hope means to them.


Gillian Lever

Thirty years with ART FIRST, London

This January ART FIRST, London is marking 30 Years with a celebratory exhibition

 11 January - 16 February 2024 at The Forge, 15 St Mary’s Walk, Lambeth.

I have shown work with ART FIRST at their various premises throughout this 30 year period and am represented in this exhibition alongside: Güler Ates, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Luciano Bonomi, Joni Brenner, Eileen Cooper, Helena Goldwater, Jake Harvey, Margaret Hunter, Kevin Laycock, Simon Lewty, Alex Lowery, Helen MacAlister, Bridget Macdonald, Will Maclean, Louis Maqhubela, Kate McCrickard, Jack Milroy, Mimei Thompson, Simon Morley, Karel Nel, Donald Teskey, Graeme Williams, Partou Zia.

Before moving to London, Clare Cooper (ART FIRST’s Director) ran Midlands Contemporary Art in Birmingham, a gallery in the Jewellery Quarter of the City.  She additionally organised other collaborative projects in the Midlands. I exhibited work at Midlands Contemporary Art and  one of the first projects that Clare invited me to participate in early on was an exhibition at Lichfield Cathedral as part of the 1992 Lichfield Festival.  The paintings for this exhibition were made in response to the Lichfield Gospels.

I have enjoyed thinking back over other ART FIRST collaborations that I have been involved with over the years and am feeling thankful for so many creative opportunities and connections.

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