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.


Jake Lever

Forest drawings  

The Christmas holiday has given us the opportunity to look at some of our old sketchbooks, going back nearly 40 years to when we both studied Fine Art at Reading University. In 1987, a few years after I graduated, we lived in St Albans and I taught part-time at a nearby Steiner School. Cycling to and from the school, I came across an area of dense woodland, a space which, in effect, became my studio for a period.  These drawings in crayon and pencil were made there and coming across them has reminded me of how strongly I have been drawn to the primordial, dark spaces of forests since childhood. 

Gillian Lever


In 1985 Gillian was in her final year at Reading University.  Alongside making a series of wall mounted structures in wood and paper, drawing and printmaking were central elements of her practice.  These small scale monoprints were made in 1985 as a way of exploring the abstract elements of structure, line and form, still a central themes in her recent painting. 


Jake Lever

Zuleika Gallery exhibition

In recent years I have frequently visited Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. I have loved both the space and the exhibitions that they have thoughtfully curated. This December I am delighted that they have chosen to include some of my recent work in their Christmas exhibition.  

Zuleika Gallery was founded in Oxford in 2015 by Lizzie Collins, who has been working in the art world for over 20 years. Zuleika’s  focus is on emerging contemporary art and Modern British art. 

The Christmas Show will showcase  a selection of affordable paintings, prints, drawings and ceramics and will run until December 23rd at the gallery in Park Street, Woodstock (see their website for full details and opening times). 

My work on show is a mixture of recent prints and drawings made with black Somerset Velvet paper and reflects my current interest in the ‘web of belonging’ and fascination with tree roots, webs, mycelium and seaweed. 

Gillian Lever

Looking ahead 

2023 has been a full and creative year. I have enjoyed making new paintings and showing work with Art First, London and I am now working on a new body of work for exhibition in 2024.

I have also loved offering Creative Quiet Days with art therapist Becky Morse-Brown. The response to these days has been very encouraging and we plan to offer more of them in 2024. The days are mostly held in silence with input from the facilitators and opportunities for experimental art making and reflection. At the end of each day we hold space for verbal sharing and viewing of the artwork that has been made. In these uncertain times opportunities for quiet reflective space and creative expression seem to be increasingly sought after.  For more information please contact Lever Arts.

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