Alexander Johnson studio

Meet the Artist : Alexander Johnson

Fresh from his recent showing in the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 exhibition in Bath in March 2018, we met with Alexander Johnson to learn more about his life as an artist, the evolution of his work into abstract form and his aversion to the slick digital images that encroach on modern-day life…


Alexander grew up in a rural setting in West Sussex, just outside Chichester in the 1960’s and 70’s. His formative years were spent in the shadow of the South Downs walking and cycling around with complete freedom. After finishing Art College in Cardiff, he spent the bulk of his adult life living in cities including London, Barcelona, Nijmegen and Brighton. But in 2015 he returned to the countryside where he grew up and rekindled his fond childhood memories of the old farm buildings and trees that were his playground as a child.


His work, even when abstracted, has always been about storytelling; setting down his own experiences and feelings, and and combining them with contemporary themes. Buildings, trees and pictorial elements climb into the canvasses to make their home amongst the abstract images. His work is a collage, combining memories from his youth with his new surroundings, as if time is elastic and the past can co-exist with the present. He aims to offer an antidote to the digitised age, asking us to relish the touch only a human can bring to a canvas and consider our own history and impact on the earth upon which we dwell.



Strong, enquiring, risk-taking, dynamic, truthful.



My eureka moment was in Antibes, in the South of France in 1975 when I was eleven. It was the first time we had been abroad as a family, my first time on a plane. We were camping under the Scots Pines and the intoxication I felt from the language, smells and food of France are clearly punctuated by a memory of standing on the stairs in the Picasso Museum looking up at his sculpture of a bull’s head made from a bicycle saddle with handlebars for the horns. It was a lightning bolt moment for me and I knew from then onwards that I wanted to be an artist.



I don’t wait for inspiration, I’m in the studio every day so new ideas surface during the working process and I develop them. I have kept daily sketchbooks for the last 35 years and this ongoing sketching and processing of ideas informs the larger work. Certain enduring interests influence me such as the contours from aerial reconnaissance photos that my father took in the war, which still thread their way through the work.


Contemporary artists need to be working outside of themselves to engage me, so artists like Rachel Whiteread, Jeremy Deller and Cornelia Parker are favourites.


In terms of art-history: Matisse and Picasso of course, also Philip Guston, Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Goya, Rembrandt, Hepworth, Sandra Blow. Early on I became interested in Dada and Surrealism through punk graphics (Jamie Reid and Linder Sterling referenced Dada in their work).


Graphic designers like Barney Bubbles, Peter Saville and specific LP record covers are still a big influence. I play records in the studio as I paint, so for example, A Love Supreme by John Coltrane or the Clash’s first LP are a constant presence and must influence my thinking. I occasionally look at one of my paintings and realise it reminds me of a record cover, or that the particular colour I’m using corresponds exactly with a colour from one of them (I recently had that with a teal-blue I was using, I checked and it was exactly the same hue as The Sweetest Girl cover by Scritti Politti).



I don’t know what my work says about me, it’s not really about me, it’s about history; the palimpsest of human life and tracks on the earth’s surface, the scars left by humankind on the earth. That in turn relates back to my father’s experiences as a reconnaissance photographer in the second world war. I may have an impetus to make work on that specific subject, but whether or not people pick up on it, or whether they just like the shapes and colours in the paintings I couldn’t say.


Ultimately art, like music, is instinctive and when people are choosing work to buy, I encourage them to listen to their gut instinct rather than their intellectual choice. Having said that, I’m not trying to make paintings that just look pretty, I am aiming for something that looks strong, that has a good underlying structure and has some truth. I don’t want them to be just wallpaper, it’s important to have a clear voice, a subliminal message perhaps.



I don’t tend to work in a rhythmic or formulaic pattern like that. I like to experiment so I find it best to approach each day afresh. I agree with Picasso’s quote that ‘inspiration exists, but it has to find you working‘. That is my experience too. I’m in the studio every day and I get bored easily, so I’m constantly looking for ways to keep myself entertained while I make my work.


I make oil paintings, but also original prints, etchings, silkscreens and lithographs and ideas surface during these processes. I go to a print studio in Brighton to make the etchings and it’s good to rub shoulders with other artists – most of the time I’m working alone in my studio in the countryside.


Knowing when a painting is finished is the most difficult part of the process, although I find it easier to make good choices as I get older. I used to be tempted to tidy up images or show off my technical skills, but you can kill the vitality of a piece with just a couple of strokes too many, so I’m cautious now to leave the rough edges, that’s where the energy lies and that’s the truth of humanity – rough edges.


My aim is to produce an antidote to the slick digital images that surround us on screens everywhere. I like paintings with fingerprints and brush marks that have been made by a human being rather than a computer programme. The early ‘modern artists’ (Cezanne, Matisse, Degas) were right to find a new way to express themselves when photography became popular in the 1800’s – I hope I’m continuing in that tradition.



I’ve been making art for nearly forty years and I’ve only just worked out what I’m doing.



Posted on: July 5, 2018
Playing With Fire No. 53 (Edgy 7) by Kelly O’Brien for Modern ArtBuyer

Introducing Kelly O’Brien

We’re delighted to welcome Kelly O’Brien to Modern ArtBuyer. Kelly is an American mixed media artist who lives and works near Bath. Kelly is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Art at Bath Spa University with an expected degree award in 2019.


Kelly O’Brien has a clear and evident passion for her work, which gives her an exceptional drive to push boundaries and ask questions. We were immediately struck by the refinement and sensitivity of Kelly’s works which explore the volatile relationship between paper and fire, and the unexpectedly beautiful outcomes of combining the two. In her ‘Playing With Fire’ series, Kelly delves deeper into this relationship introducing additional elements : thread, gold leaf, spray paint.


You can see and read more about this series here.


Posted on: January 25, 2018
Ice Cream Plaza by Bonnie and Clyde for Modern ArtBuyer

Pop into our Open House Pop-up Gallery near Bath, 25-26 November

On 25th and 26th November we’re opening our doors once again for our Open House Pop-up Gallery in Limpley Stoke just outside Bath. We’ve curated a selection of artworks from our impressive artists including Bonnie and Clyde, Maria Rivans, Dion Salvador Lloyd, Jane Emberson, Mark Stopforth, Plum Neasmith, Paul Minott and Jonathan Barber amongst many others, offering a great range of styles and prices.


Sylvan Lodge, 1 Cliffe Drive,
Limpley Stoke, Bath BA2 7FY


Saturday 25th November : 10am – 5:30pm
Sunday 26th November : 10am – 5:30pm


Whether you are interested in just browsing or looking to buy, please pop in for a glass of prosecco or a coffee, and please feel free to bring friends along!

Posted on: November 8, 2017
Northern Edge III by Mark Stopforth for Modern ArtBuyer

The toast of Oxford

We’re proud to see Modern ArtBuyer artist, Mark Stopforth, shortlisted for TOAST’S National finals. As part of their ‘Works of the Heart’ project, 11 artworks have been selected to hang in the windows of 11 of their stores with Mark’s ‘Northern Edge III’ (shown above) chosen to adorn the window of their Oxford branch. If you’re in the area do pop along to see the spectacular piece in person.


Click here for more information on TOAST’s project.


Posted on: February 1, 2017
Rounding Up (June) 2 (small) by Sara Dudman RWA for Modern ArtBuyer

Outstanding additions to our portfolio

Our ethos at Modern ArtBuyer is to bring together exceptional art and passionate collectors, so with that in mind we’re excited to have unveiled our latest collaboration.


We’re working closely with the experienced and reputable team at One Church Street Gallery, offering them exposure on our website as a new channel to showcase their well-curated portfolio of artists. We’ve kicked off with the beautifully-observed paintings by Sara Dudman RWA, the collaborative, intriguing abstracts from Robinson & McMahon and the technical brilliance of Ian Robinson. Their work is now available to browse and buy directly through our website and, as always, viewings can be arranged with pleasure.


It’s an inspiring venture for us. We hope you are equally inspired by their exceptional works.

Posted on: September 16, 2016

Plum Neasmith adorns the walls of the Royal Academy

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is always firmly in our calendar each year. It can be a mixed bag but it’s a great barometer for current trends and artist practices. And we’ve heard good things about this year’s show co-ordinated by Richard Wilson RA who describes it as “unpredictable, stimulating and startling”.


So we’re delighted that Modern ArtBuyer artist Plum Neasmith has had two paintings accepted into this year’s show. Both paintings have already sold and we have sold more of her work subsequently – recognition of her integrity and quality. We’ll be taking her work to Affordable Art Fairs later in the year, so look out for updates.


Our congratulations to Plum!

Posted on: July 7, 2016

Art news : feeling that summer vibe

In our latest newsletter we highlight the enchanting illustrative work of Lucille Clerc, our newest artist. On top of that, we honour the glorious summertime with a handful of artworks certain to bring the sunshine into your home. Catch up on all our news here: June newsletter.

Posted on: June 25, 2015

A chat with Alexander Johnson

Brighton-based abstract painter and printmaker, Alexander Johnson, has made this great video to talk about his practice processes and inspirations. A valuable insight into the mind of an exciting artist.

Posted on: April 16, 2015

Latest news: art fairs and spring reviews

Our latest newsletter covers the forthcoming Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, provides an update on our pop-up gallery in Bath and offers advice on a Spring shake up of your art collection. Read all about it here.

Posted on: March 5, 2015

Modern ArtBuyer chats to Trudy Montgomery

We’ve just launched the third of our videos created to help you understand more about the world of art collecting. In this video, Jessica Lloyd-Smith talks to Modern ArtBuyer artist Trudy Montgomery about her work and her influences. A fascinating insight into the artist behind the canvas.

We hope you find it enlightening.
Posted on: June 28, 2014

Modern ArtBuyer’s Dion Salvador Lloyd accepted for RA Summer Show

Modern ArtBuyer artist Dion Salvador Lloyd has recently added to his list of accolades, having heard that two of his captivating landscapes have been accepted to hang in the Royal Academy Summer Show 2014.

The accepted works are ‘Totora’ (shown right) and ‘Lullaby’. Both paintings are oils on paper at 200mm by 150mm and were selected by the Royal Academy hanging committee from around 12,000 initial entries. A well-deserved honour for Dion.
The exhibition aims to represent what is happening in the art world now and runs from 9 June to 17 August:
Posted on: June 2, 2014

In the spotlight: Maria Rivans

The wonderful world of Maria Rivans is on a roll with recent representation by the highly-respected Saatchi Gallery and the unveiling of some beautiful new pieces from her much-loved ‘Pin-Up’ series. We grabbed a moment of her time to ask her a few questions about her work.

Hi Maria! How is your work evolving at the moment?
Well, the ‘Pin-Up’ series seems to be gathering momentum right now with each ‘Pin-Up’ exhibiting a really clear character. The model images that I use in the pieces are actors from vintage Hollywood films so I strive to develop a firm identity for each ‘Pin-Up’ as if they were a real screen legend. Currently, I am finding that these characters are based on women who are particularly empowered. For instance, Lady Valentina (shown right) is an explorer and adventurer, travelling the world on her own, possibly living in Africa on safari for a long period of her life. She is named Valentina after Valentina Tereshokva who was a Russian astronaut – the first woman in Space in fact.
Valentina sounds pretty formidable! So, tell me about your new representation through Saatchi.
Since December 2013, I have had my work on permanent show at the Saatchi Gallery in their Limited Prints Gallery. They are also showing my original collages from the ‘Film Still’ series. And I have just heard some very exciting news from them – I’ve been offered my own exhibition of the ‘Pin-Up’ and ‘Film Still’ originals as well as the opportunity to launch some new print designs. It will take place some time in the Autumn, so I will keep you posted on that date for your diary!
That is great news. Any other exciting projects on the horizon?
Right now, I am working on a joint show with the fantastic Bonnie and Clyde, who also shows through Modern ArtBuyer. It will take place in May 2014 at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery in Soho, London. I’ve just started to create the work for this exhibition, which is really exciting. My work will also be showing in April with Modern ArtBuyer as part of the Bath in Fashion event, which is exciting.
Internationally, my work will be seen in Hong Kong and Toronto for the first time this year. I am also currently in conversation with a very prestigious gallery in Venice but I don’t want to say too much about that at this point. On top of that, I’m booked up all year with exhibitions at Liberty Gallery. I’m in for a busy year that’s for sure!
We’ll keep you posted on Maria’s new work as it’s released, so stay connected.
Posted on: March 3, 2014

Screen drama

Alexander Johnson’s printmaking training on his degree course meant he was printing on paper long before he worked on canvas with oils. A serigraph literally means ‘silk-drawing’ which he feels is the perfect way to describe the unique works on paper that he makes using the silkscreen technique. A serigraph only produces one print rather than an edition – it is made by painting the inks directly on to the silkscreen mesh, before it is pulled through the mesh and onto the paper beneath destroying the original painted image in the process. Alexander has to work quickly as the inks begin to dry as soon as they are applied to the screen. He finds that this forces him to work more instinctively with less time to stand back and think, as he has with a painting.
This most recent series of serigraphs capture a short period in 2013 when Alexander wanted to freshen up his approach to painting. He packed his oils away, bought some wonderful Italian Fabriano paper and wheeled out the printing press. Over about a month in the summer, he worked long days producing quick images until he had a good number, selecting only the most successful ones to show. These unique serigraphs in the ‘PORTAL’ series are the result of that work. ‘Portal 3 (serigraph)’ is shown right.
They are all the same format (around 46cm x 46cm square) and are hand-made by Alexander in his Brighton studio. Each works a similar theme, but each one is entirely unique, so make sure you secure one before they all go!


Posted on: February 21, 2014

Beacon leads the way

Dion Salvador Lloyd’s mesmerising work has received deserved acclaim, with his painting ‘Beacon’ having been accepted for the Royal Cambrian Academy Open Exhibition. ‘Beacon’, an oil on paper, demonstrates both Dion’s technical excellence as a painter as well as his emotional engagement with the natural world around him.

This is the latest in a number of high profile submissions for Dion, who has recently also had work accepted into the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal West of England Academy.
The Royal Cambrian Academy exhibition runs from 11 January until 22 February 2014. Details can be found on their website. More of Dion’s works on paper will be available through the Modern ArtBuyer website soon. We will keep you posted.
Posted on: December 11, 2013

Onwards and upwards for illustrator Emma Cowlam

Modern ArtBuyer artist Emma Cowlam epitomises the hand-stitched, fashion illustrations for which she has become so well known. She is vibrant, current, full of energy and understandably excited about her future with a constant stream of new ideas and projects on the go. Not only is she the perfect face for her fast-growing brand, but she is also its ideal core because within this young at heart, upbeat artist is an ambitious and hard-working individual.


Her work ethic and achievements are impressive. While studying for her degree in Textile Design at Chelsea, London, in 2007 she won a four-month scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology, Manhattan, New York, where she developed and refined her hand-stitched illustration technique. It is this technique that she still uses to create her well-observed and touching scenes of fashionistas, hipsters and thoroughly-modern girls.


Within two years of finishing her degree, Emma had produced a bespoke collection of hand-stitched illustrations for the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and her artworks subsequently launched in Liberty of London. When Modern ArtBuyer first met her, she was working with the Royal Stafford pottery to create a fantastic range of crockery bearing her designs, which launched later that year at Somerset House in London. On top of all this, she has also launched a range of greetings cards soon to be sold through Paperchase, a venture which has seen her win the CCW Award at the 2012 Creative Enterprise Awards.


We asked Emma about the popularity and plans for her work: “I am thrilled with the amount of exposure my work is getting within such a short space of time! My focus is on showcasing my exciting combination of traditional drawing and sewing skills, across a range of products giving them a fresh, modern and contemporary feel.”


The first piece of work we sold through Modern ArtBuyer was Emma’s kooky and heartwarming ‘NY Bike Lovers’, illustrating a funky, young couple on a bicycle made for one. It went to a delighted customer based in Dubai who remarked on how fantastic her work was ‘in the flesh’. Similarly, I’ve been told that our most recent Emma Cowlam devotee has removed a prized studio photograph of her children to hang her new ‘Deco Shopping’ illustration: “Pride of place in the kitchen. I love it!”. Such is the beauty and quality of Emma’s work – both the hand-stitched technique and the endearing subjects – you instantly fall in love with it when you see it.


Emma’s most recent collaboration has been with Radley London who commissioned her to create some bespoke illustrations that capture a very quintessential and timeless Britishness, key to the Radley brand itself. Emma’s designs answer the brief perfectly and her bespoke designs have then been applied to their leather, canvas and nylon bags and purses. They look stunning – a very successful collaboration – and are available to in their stores and online this summer.


Both Emma and her work are going from strength to strength, with new pieces and projects appearing all the time. In our opinion, she’s definitely one to watch. Catch her if you can!

Posted on: August 6, 2013

Natural beauty

We’re thrilled to introduce Greg Miller-Hard, launching with his stunning Mandala series of photographs. Based in New Zealand, Greg is the latest overseas artist to show through Modern ArtBuyer.

The series mimics the complex dichotomy found in flora, using his macro photography as a starting point to create these breathtaking images. These works are the product of Greg’s passion for imagery distilled from the botanic, geographic and aquatic realms. They explore nature at its finest and emphasise its constant beauty.
You can see more of Greg’s mesmerising photographic work here.
Posted on: February 26, 2013

Spotting the talent

We’re incredibly proud to represent widely-respected artists through Modern ArtBuyer. The latest artist to gain recognition is Emma Cowlam who hand-stitches her beautifully chic illustrations. On 20 June, The Independent newspaper highlighted Emma as one of the top ten talents appearing at the forthcoming New Designers ‘One Year On’ Exhibition, at the Business Design Centre from 4-7 July.


The exhibition’s curator, Jethro Macey, said that he loved her work describing it as ‘so cool’ adding ‘there is something really expressive in the style of people and their personalities’. With illustrations ranging from lovers on a bike in New York to a seasoned festival-goer in wellie boots and knickers, we’ve fallen in love with her work too.


To see more of Emma Cowlam’s wonderful work, please click here.

Posted on: June 22, 2012