Pilling, Olivia

Olivia Pilling

A bit about my Work 

The bright colours and tones are the first things I want the viewer to notice when they look at my work. I feel the colour in my paintings is already there in the subject matter I see and choose - I just heighten and accentuate the hues and therefore try to enhance the viewer’s experience of my paintings. The use of colour goes hand in hand with how I handle the paint. It is lively, free and loose and I want this sense of excitement, playfulness and immediacy to be conveyed.

I paint what I see; from local scenes from the valleys in the Pennine, to other cities such as Manchester where I am now based, sights both in the UK and abroad, to everyday mundane objects and interiors in my own home. Growing up in the hills in the small town of Todmorden, Lancashire, I have put my use of colour down to an immediate response to the dark smoke stained brick work, deep dark valleys, abandoned mills and towering chimneys of the landscape.


After studying my Art foundation course at Blackburn College, I went on to do a BA Hons Fine Art degree at Nottingham Trent University. During this time I exhibited my work in the Midlands, London and the North West. After finishing university, I returned to Todmorden, and began painting full time.


My earlier work has been likened to that of the German Expressionists, and as it has developed, influence of the Fauvist period and the Post impressionists can be seen. Like the Fauvist painters, I’m not afraid to use colour to transform a simple subject into something stimulating and vibrant. The works of Derain, Vlaminck, Roualt, Nolde and Matisse, as well British painters such as Bomberg and Sickert are strong influences. Russian folk art is a big inspiration to the artist due to the use of black and how it is used to encapsulate and harness the vividness of colour.

To canvas

Rather that starting with a sketch of the subject, my paintings evolve from lines and dots mapping out a rough composition of the image. Once the rough image is mapped out, immediacy is the key to my painting. The image is subsequently drawn with the paint itself, building up a series of layers. If the image is over worked, it is started again. The process is raw, organic. Working in acrylics, the paint dries quite quickly so allows for the layers to be added. I try to avoid pondering over colour combinations or using meticulous processes; they can sometimes hinder creativity and make me more critical of my own work. The elements of bright colours, dark contrasts, shadowy subject matter and loose technique come together to provide an end result of an image that rides a fine line between spontaneity, calculation and control. On many of the larger canvases there may be marks or splashes that have happened accidently but this is seen as part of the process and evidence of the paint itself.

My paintings are both an expression and an impression of the subject itself. Each brushstroke is an impulse or response created from the brushstroke that has gone before it. At time the paint is seen as a substance, acknowledging its properties, and not just as a medium for translating ideas on to paper. I think it gives the viewer a sense and insight of the labour and excitement which have gone into the painting.

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View from Manchester House
20" x 16" (51 x 41cm)

Oil on Canvas

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