Orlanda Broom creates paintings in two distinct styles: lush and floral landscapes, and fluid and abstract works. What connects these two bodies of work is her use of colour, organic forms and exploration of painting mediums. Orlanda earned an MA in Fine Art from Winchester School of Art in 1997 while studying in Barcelona. She has lived in Portugal and London and now works from her studio in Hampshire.
Orlanda's landscapes portray reimagined places that are vibrant, colourful and full of life. Her abstract paintings, created in the spirit of abstract expressionism, are made intuitively with resin and allow chance to play a role in forming the composition. Notably, Orlanda has completed large-scale commissions including a 4x4m piece for the lobby of the new Four Seasons Downtown New York and a large abstract work for the Mandarin Oriental in London. She is also involved with the mental health charity, Hospital Rooms.
You create both floral landscapes and abstract works. How do you approach each genre differently?
The landscapes take a long time to complete and are densely layered – the composition evolves on the canvas with no preplanning. I’m guided by what’s happening with the paint itself, allowing splashes and drips to suggest forms. As the composition becomes more coherent, I close in on detail. This process of layering and editing gives the landscape paintings their depth and fluidity. I work on a series of paintings in my studio over several months and there is time for contemplation or decision.
My approach to the abstract pieces works in the opposite way in that I have to make decisions quickly and the process is very immediate and in the moment. Resin, the medium I work with for the abstract paintings, has a short working-time, and after a certain point you can’t go any further with it, so you have this very intense working period, completely focused on one thing. I don’t use brushes or tools, I just manipulate the surface to move it around. These two polar ways of working really complement and inform each other; it’s important for me to have the freedom to move between the two.
Your landscapes are hyper-colourful and represent wild places, but there is a sense of abandonment in them. What inspired you to create such a contrast in your works?
There is a tension between the seemingly joyous and darker narratives that I’m thinking about when I make my work. Colour acts as a device for enticement and the lush, floral elements convey a sense of freedom and otherworldliness. But as the adage goes, there’s no light without dark. The landscapes I depict are often overgrown wildernesses and represent abandonment and entrapment. Themes of losing something, perceptions of beauty, climate change, internal narrative, life cycles – these are all underlying themes that I explore through my own visual language.
How do you explore different painting mediums in your work, and what impact do they have on the finished pieces?
The way paint ‘behaves’ is a massive factor in how my paintings evolve, and it’s also the common thread (alongside colour) between my two bodies of work. I am exploring the characteristics of the resin and of the paint; the properties which are integral to the final composition. I especially love acrylic paint for its versatility – you can essentially create your own paint from dry pigment and use the huge range of mediums available. It opens up a world of different techniques and effects is really exciting to me. It brings a sense of play and experimentation when I’m painting, and I think that keeps work fresh.
How important is colour to your work, and how do you choose the palettes you use?
Colour is so important in my work. There’s a constant desire to keep pushing and experimenting with it. It’s also something that I don’t consciously think about or pre-plan; it’s very intuitive and determined by what’s happening on the canvas. The exception would be when I am working with resin on the abstract pieces as I pre-mix the colour palette. In this case, choosing the colours is about what’s going to work together because you are also working with transparencies, and also how the pigments will interact when they blend together on the canvas.
You've completed large-scale commissions, including a piece for the Four Seasons in Downtown New York and a large abstract for the Mandarin Oriental in London. What is the process like for creating commissioned pieces?
It’s really fun working on commissions like this; it’s not often you get to work on a huge canvas. You have to be strategic in terms of composition. I usually work on my paintings on the floor and on the wall, but large-scale canvasses, which aren’t so easily manoeuvred, must be approached differently. However, limitations lead to finding different ways to do something, and that’s always a good thing.
The Four Seasons painting ‘Mana Hatta’ was 4x4 metres so it was hugely stressful and challenging but also wonderful. For this particular commission everything else in my life went on the backburner and I worked on it solidly: seven days a week over the course of a few months. It’s rare to be able to work in such a focused, intense way. I loved it.
What motivated you to become involved with Hospital Rooms, a mental health charity we also work closely with? Could you share some specific projects you have worked on with the organisation?
The charity is a brilliant initiative to bring art into mental health units where a person’s experience and recovery can be potentially improved by a better and enriching environment. I have followed the work that Hospital Rooms have been doing since Niamh White and Tim Shaw co-founded it in 2016.
They held a fundraising auction at Hauser and Wirth London, who have partnered with Hospital Rooms. I was invited to donated a painting for the auction last September and it was great to be alongside the many amazing artists who also contributed. But I am really excited to be working on a site-specific painting for a mental health unit in Kent. We are currently in the planning stage and it should be completed by early summer. I will be painting a wall-based artwork on-site, and I can’t wait to get started.
You've lived in Portugal and London, and are now based in Hampshire. How have these different locations influenced your work?
Different locations have represented phases in my life. When I moved to London I started to paint using a brighter palette, and I think that was to compensate for living in a big city, having moved from sun-drenched Portugal! I think my travels further afield have had a more lasting influence and act as a source of inspiration; the memories and nostalgia that you have for amazing trips outside of your usual experience, that are also probably a bit false and rose-tinted – this is also interesting to me.
What advice do you have for artists starting out in their careers?
Make sure you have artist mates who you can talk to, as it can be a bit solitary otherwise. Submit your work to competitions and grow a thick skin for rejections – it’s often not a reflection on the quality of your work. And however you feel about it, social media can be very useful!
What do you hope viewers take away from your paintings?
I hope there’s a sense of wonder; that my love for the beauty of nature comes through. I’m often surprised by how differently one person will read a painting to the next. I like that my paintings are open to interpretation. Aesthetically speaking, I like the density and layered quality of my landscapes to keep offering new, unnoticed bits to the viewer, so there’s almost a growth and unfurling happening in front of you. And it’s great to ignite some curiosity about how the paintings are made too.
All images are courtesy of the artist. Click here to see more of Orlanda's work.
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