March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Gabriel Hartley

As we approach the March Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architecture fellow. The first to be interviewed is Gabriel Hartley, our Abbey Fellow in Painting.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

It seems that you produce a lot of your images and paintings quickly. Could you tell us more about your process and how things unfold in your studio?

I have two different ways of making paintings. One for which I do a lot of drawings, sometimes from sight and sometimes from memory, and then these drawings are translated directly into the painting. These for example might be an architectural detail that I have seen or an object from a museum. I then translate these drawings and plan the painting.

The second approach is to find the image as I am making. I use an angle grinder to excavate the paint and reveal layers that have previously been covered. Through making I find what I am interested in and what I have been looking at, and then take these on board for the next painting.



Studio shot

There is an interesting interplay between abstraction and figuration within your paintings and sculptures. It usually seems that your surroundings influence the choices you make within your work.

For a while I’ve been responding to how one shapes oneself in response to a place or an environment. It’s been a challenge here in how to react to the classical architecture. How to deal with all the columns and arches. I’ve tried to be as open as possible to all that I’ve been looking at, perhaps more than I am normally, and have used painting as a way of processing all the visual overload that Rome has thrown at me. Looking around the studio there are things I can name and place as responses to specific things , be it the Vespas,  a Bernini alterpiece, artefacts from Etruscan Museums, the elegant tall pines , or graffiti of ships from Pompeii.

I picked up this book of Pompeiian graffiti from the BSR library and just really love the translations of the graffiti into drawings.


You have worked with a broad variety of materials, including resin, foam, and glass. Do you plan on working with new materials during your residency here?

In terms of working with new materials, my plan was to make sculptures with resin, which I’m gearing myself up to at the moment. There has been a slight change in process in some of the paintings  where I have been working on wood panels and carving out the forms of the paintings with a grinder. Since being here I have been drawn to the quality of the paint being part of the material in the frescoes. I’m not sure how that will manifest itself, or if it has,  but it will creep in somewhere I’m sure.


Close-up showing excavation technique

Do you think the experience of working in Rome will affect your work in any specific way?

I was particularly struck by the visit to the excavations under San Giovanni in Laterano with Ian Haynes (Newcastle).


Excavations under San Giovanni in Laterano

I am really drawn to the idea of different histories sitting on top of and alongside each other, how they interrelate and you discover things you didn’t expect.  I was struck by this on the tour as I realised that there was this labyrinth underneath the basilica and I had to work out how all these different layers fitted together. To understand the different timelines, you have to be really imaginative. This feeling is what I want to convey with my paintings, I want the viewer to have to be constantly active, to be re-focusing and looking and thinking in different ways to try to piece together the painting.

Gabriel’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the March Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 16 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 24 March 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview and photos by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)