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Portrait of Robin Holtom in his studio © Ian O’Leary

Portrait of Robin Holtom in his studio © Ian O’Leary

Still watching paint dry


After swim, (oils)

On Tuesday 20 August, artist Robin Holtom takes over Hastings Arts Forum for two weeks. The exhibition is part retrospective and part a showcase for brand new work – there will be drawings, paintings and prints of landscapes, architecture and the human form – plus figurative sculptures. HOT’s Erica Smith talked to him about stillness, movement, Hastings Arts Forum and his place in the wider landscape.

Tower, Casole, evening (monoprint)

Tower, Casole, evening (monoprint)

Robin and his wife Rachel arrived in Hastings about twenty years ago. When he told me more about his life before Hastings, the choice to settle here made perfect sense.

In the 1960s, Robin studied painting at Chelsea School of Art followed by film at the Royal College of Art. It was whilst studying film that he became fascinated by psychology and he worked as an art therapist for 12 years before establishing his own residential summer school near Cardigan, Wales. The move to west Wales was an antidote to London and his time spent supporting his psychiatric patients. Running summer schools freed up the rest of the year for Robin to work on his own art.

As well as spending time living within and painting the Welsh countryside, Robin has also taught and worked in Tuscany, Venice and Andalucia. After 15 years of Welsh rain and three-day pilgrimages to visit exhibitions in London, Hastings was the perfect place to relocate to – Sussex Downs, sunny weather and only a short train journey away from the capital. Robin adds that both Cardigan and Hastings have a higher than average quota of artists and mavericks!


Dancer, (plaster)

Whilst Robin explores different subject matter within his paintings, I think that he holds a continuity of colour palette and treatment. Whether he is studying dancers or buildings, his paintings are recognisable.

I ask him why he is equally interested in drawing from life and static compositions. He responds by saying that he has always been fascinated by both stillness and movement. This is something that he experimented with in his days as a filmmaker when he animated photographs of Henry Moore paintings, and he still explores through his beautiful sculptures of dancers.

Robin has been involved with Hastings Arts Forum since it was formed in 2003 and he has always been actively engaged as an artist, a volunteer and a Trustee. He was instrumental in expanding the Forum into an adjoining empty shop to create the second gallery and last year he co-organised Festival15 celebrating the first 15 years of the Forum with an exhibition of significant painters from the Hastings area.

Indian dancers (drawing)

Indian dancers (drawing)

What he values most about Hastings Arts Forum is that it has encouraged so many entry level artists to exhibit for the first time and to become confident in their art practice. The Arts Forum financially supports new artists by providing exhibition space for the Rising Talent Show and supporting The Big Draw.

Robin also applauds the Forum volunteers – “we are incredibly lucky to have such an astounding hanging team”. We both remember Hastings Arts Forum volunteer Sid Beynon who died of a heart attack in 2010 aged 55. Sid was a great example of an artist who both gave to and benefited from Hastings Arts Forum. The Forum offers a beautiful double gallery space for exhibitions and a supportive centre for local artists.

Downs near Firle (oil)

Downs near Firle (oil)

Still watching paint dry is an opportunity to see a selection of Robin’s work from the past 25 years, as well as a significant body of work produced in the last year. Holtom has purposefully kept the prices of the artwork affordable, with a 35% commission going towards Hastings Arts Forum (the usual commission is 25%). I heartily recommend that you visit this one man show. If you happen to walk away with an original Holtom under your arm, you won’t be the only people to benefit from your purchase.

Still Watching Paint Dry runs from Tuesday 20 August to Sunday 1 September at Hastings Arts Forum, 36 Marina, St Leonards-on-Sea  TN38 0BUThe open evening is: Friday 23 August 6.30–8.30pm

On Saturday 24 August at 2pm Robin will give an artist’s talk called
Artists should have their tongues cut out.

You can read Nick Weekes’ 2014 HOT interview with Robin Holtom here.


Tuscan Hills (oil)

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Posted 00:13 Monday, Aug 19, 2019 In: Arts News

Also in: Arts News

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