Student Spotlight: Julia Oborne

Julia Oborne studies Painting, and is in her final year at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art. She creates utterly dreamy paintings, using a variety of forms to create unconventional, strange compositions. Working in a variety of mediums, from oil paint to mixed media, she chooses beautiful colours to make her surreal art. Intrigued by her approach to painting, we asked Julia to tell us more about her course and creative process.

What made you want to study Painting at Edinburgh College of Art?

As well as the college’s international reputation, I was drawn to the school because of its link with Edinburgh University, which means that you are part of the wider university community. The city itself is beautiful and the art school is right in the middle of it all, so any event or exhibition is only a walk away.

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Who or what inspires you and makes you want to create art?

A lot of my work is inspired by colour. From Vermeer’s subtle diffused palette in ‘The Milkmaid’ to Rothko’s bold, rectangular fields of colour, I am inspired by the challenges of the balance of colour with form and composition. More recently, I have been looking at the works of Japanese artists and the delicacy of their paintings and woodblocks. For example, the ink bird-and-flower screens of the Muromachi period show expanses of emptiness that are peppered with areas of strong brushstroke and colour.

How would you describe your artwork?

I would say that my artwork explores the act of painting more than anything else. The subject and forms I use are only a tool to explore paint and its capacities further. I tend to begin each year collecting a bank of forms. Previously these forms have come from starting points such as ‘the everyday,’ pottery, and science. This year the forms have come from lifting images from paintings by Van Gogh and various Japanese artworks. These forms then become a language, which is used to compose the painting.

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You use a range of mediums, such as acrylics, oils, ink, and mixed media – do you have a favourite?

Although I love oil, and tend to end up working with it, I would say that the medium depends on what stage of my project I am at. For example, I find drawing a very useful way of quickly building up ideas, whether this is drawing with a pen or drawing and manipulating in Photoshop.

What projects have you completed on your course?

Because the course is so self-directed, I’ve been working on a continuous body of work over the last couple of years. I have been developing the areas that I felt were successful, and re-evaluating and dropping the elements that weren’t.

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Is there a piece or project that you’re most proud of?

This summer I had my first solo show in which I exhibited a series of paintings at Rook Lane Chapel in Somerset. This was an amazing opportunity and I learnt a lot from it, including painting to deadlines, curation, and publicity.

What are you currently working on, or what’s next?

At the moment I am working on a series of paintings that explore the creation of spaces and landscape-esque scenes through the composition of pictorial language and scale. By removing obvious landscape indicators such as horizon lines I am aiming to evoke a more ambiguous, less obvious scene.

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Is there something you want to say with your work?

Due to its abstract nature, my work is subjective. In my current work, because I am combining more recognizable forms with abstracted ones, there could be a sense of narrative. However, this is still purely down to the viewer.

What has been the most valuable thing that you’ve learnt on your course?

Being surrounded by a creative environment and by creative people has meant I’ve learnt a lot about materials and processes. Over the last 4 years I have learnt so much about the value of experimenting. A lot of my work has come from doing things that I would not have done had I not been at art school, and really had the time to explore.

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Do you have a dream project for the future?

Being half Thai, I’d love to move to Thailand for a while and do something creative over there. I’ve visited a lot of art galleries and events in Bangkok; it’s so interesting to see how different the art culture is there and how fast it is developing. Living in Bangkok would be a great opportunity to experience this further and gain a deeper understanding of a different art world.

Check out more of Julia Oborne’s work on her website: www.juliaoborne.com.