Karn Holly NEAC (1940-2014)


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A Tribute to Karn Holly

2014 was overshadowed by the death of Karn Holly, co-founder of the NEAC Drawing School. This is what Alex Fowler, NEAC member, wrote about her:

“She was a remarkable artist and a much loved member of the New English. Her work was like no one else’s, utterly Karn, and as such was always a highlight of the New English show. There was a fitting tribute at the 2014 Annual Exhibition. One of Karn’s beautiful large landscape drawings woven out of a delicate fabric of illegible script hung next to one of her monumental Still Lifes and two incredibly sensitive little paintings of the model, with some magical examples of her studies in sketchbooks below.
She ploughed her own furrow as an artist with great conviction but extraordinary humility. She investigated and tested the possibilities of how on earth to respond to the nature of perception and the experience of existence through drawing and painting. And in her teaching she encouraged her students to do the same.
She was instrumental in setting up The New English School of Drawing, where for many years she was an outstanding and inspirational teacher. She spoke as a poet through beautiful allusion and metaphor, often very amusingly, she had a real cheeky side, a dry but wicked sense of humour. Those who were taught by her will all remember different Karnisms: avoiding the nouns, hitting the baseline, or the drawn line like the note of a cello, familiar with the forests of plumb lines, the polo mints and crumpled flowers. She understood that the second a student is told how to do something the spell is broken.
She will be greatly missed as a teacher, a mentor, a colleague and a friend.”


2000 Worshipful Company of Painters Award, New English Art Club
1998 Hunting Group Print & Drawing Prize
1997 Arts Club Purchase Prize, Royal Academy

Biographical Details & Method of Working

Karn Holly's widely admired landscape drawings were made almost entirely using writing - overlaid lines of autobiographical text relating directly to her experience of a time and place depicted. Her paintings were similarly built up layer by layer over time. As in the drawings, her expansive landscapes also incorporate text, and are equally complex and powerful. While her architectural studies capture a more dynamic urban energy, and convey a strong sense of place, her intimate still lives reveal most clearly her natural handling of paint, and subtle use of tone and colour. Her work was always deeply personal and captivating. Karn studied at Bournemouth College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. She has exhibited extensively, has work in collections in Britain, Europe, Japan and the USA, and has received several awards, including the Hunting Group Print and Drawing Prize 1998, and the Arts Club Purchase Prize at the Royal Academy 1997. She was a visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art and the University of London. She lived and worked in London.

Selected Exhibitions

2004 Christmas Exhibition, Cedar House Gallery, Surrey
2000/01 Cassian de Vere Cole Fine Art, London (solo)
1990 onwards - Royal Academy, London
1990 onwards - New English Art Club
1992/99/2000/01/02 Hunting Group, London
1991/92/96/99/2001 Discerning Eye, London
1997/99/2000/01 Bankside Gallery, London
2001 Sabin Gallery, London. Painters and Draughtsmen
2002 New Grafton Gallery, London
1998 Royal West of England Academy 
1997 Arlesford Gallery, Winchester
1990 Royal Academician's Choice


The New English (represented in, 2006) by Kenneth McConkey, ISBN 1903973988