Work & Play with Ash Holmes

Balance is a fundamental concept that is essential to living a fulfilling life, and it's something that Ash Holmes, a self-taught artist based in Guringai Land/Sydney, knows all too well. Delicately balancing her art, her work as a gallerist and her personal life is a constant juggling act. The idea of balance is foundational to the way we do everything at Incu, so in celebration of the new season, we stepped into the artist’s world to dig a little deeper.

Ash draws on colour psychology and her environment in the Northern Beaches of Sydney for an ever-evolving source of inspiration in her large-scale abstract paintings. Born in 1994, Holmes may be self-taught, but as the fourth generation of female artists, creativity runs deep in her blood. From her perspective, balance is not about perfect harmony, but rather a continuous effort to find alignment and prioritise what matters most. And when she finds balance physically, mentally and spiritually, that’s when she says her practice truly thrives.

Read on as we learn about Ash’s craft and discover her approach to achieving balance in life.

Ash, thanks for chatting with us. Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from and what you're up to.

My name is Ash Holmes, my practice is predominantly painting - large scale abstract works. My pieces are heavily inspired by my environment on Guringai Land / Sydney. This week I’m getting ready to open my solo exhibition with Studio Gallery Group in Meeanjin / Brisbane.

The theme this season at Incu is Balance. What does balance mean to you? 

I love that word. Balance from my point of view is when I’m juggling the aspects of my life in synchronicity and with purpose. When I’m in balance physically / mentally and on a soul level I feel that my practice thrives and allows me to then be more fulfilled with my paintings. Balance is a feeling and I think your body tells you when you’re in or out.

How do you manage balancing the many hats you wear — your personal life, your art, your work, etc.?

They all complement one another, so I feel that one without the other would perhaps throw things out of balance. I believe too much of something can spoil it, so it’s actually nice for me to have those boundaries with time spent in the studio. Otherwise, I’d likely just live in the studio. To keep myself organised I journal daily, I reflect week to week to see what’s working / what’s not anymore. I have about 6 notebooks going on at once, some at home/studio and the gallery without lists and journaling I don’t think I’d get much done. I need to write, sketch and vent my ideas to bring them into fruition. I’m extremely lucky to work with my partner Jake and my cousin Sammy at the gallery, these two are pillars for me and really hold the logistics and operations of HAKE together. It’s important to have a strong network of people whom you can trust and rely on.

How do you balance the need for artistic expression with the needs and expectations of your audience?

I make space for myself to be in the studio without expectation or outcome, this time is for me to explore and experiment without anything in mind other than to stay authentic in my practice. On these days, I feel connected to myself as an artist and the inner childlike qualities to being human. Without expectations and some degree of pressure I don’t think the wheels would turn, diamonds wouldn’t be made. My audience is on a journey, watching the stages of my pieces develop. I find that it’s a supportive network of like-minded people whom are watching, I’m very grateful for these individuals.

What’s your routine like, and how do you find balance in a busy schedule?

As of late, I’ve actually found joy in exercising again. I’ve started to get shoulder/back pain after long days in the studio. I want to be painting for as long as I can, so now my days look like this; Early rise, meditate or swim and have a coffee which leads me straight into the studio around 8am (which apparently is early for artists) then I will paint, later in the day I’ll train / sauna and email at night.

What does being a fourth-generation artist mean to you?

I feel supported, from a lineage that goes back 100 years. My practice is completely different to the generations before me, however, I still feel connected to painting because of the long line of artists. I’ve been reading lots about the WW2 camouflage that my great grandma was commissioned to design with many other artists, I feel proud that as a female artist in the 1940’s she was a practising artist. That drives me, to represent female artists and support one another.

What was the last word you suddenly forgot to spell?

Just then ‘exercising’ - proof it hasn’t been a priority for me haha.

What’s next for 2023?

Next up is my first solo exhibition in Meeanjin / Brisbane which is soon approaching opening on the 20th April with Studio Gallery Group, then I’m heading over to Japan to indulge in an artist residency. The residency will then lead to a show at HAKE on my arrival home. After reading lots about the camouflage designs from the 1940’s I’m feeling that it will impact my compositions too.The gallery has found it’s feet with an incredible line up of talented artists that we are so honoured to be working with. I’m looking forward to sharing their works with our community this year and seeing where each of their journeys go too.

Discover more from Ash Holmes

Words by Peter Bain
Photography by Britt Murphy