In her final year at Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Art, Julia Brooker wrote a 10,000 word dissertation on the topic of “Beauty, Colour and Decoration in British Contemporary Painting.” In this dissertation she discussed a theme close to her heart- the fact that “aesthetic beauty” in painting had become a devalued term, interchangeable with “decorative”, which is usually pejorative. Her historical and critical research confirmed this. The pleasure of colour, as the British painter and art writer Patrick Heron protested on many occasions, is to this day associated with the lightweight. In her thesis, Julia discussed the critical reception and her own responses to the later paintings of modern British painters Howard Hodgkin and Gillian Ayres and the contemporary British painters Jason Martin and Gary Hume. “Beauty” is a term brought back into use in recent years by the likes of art critic Matthew Collings, and as Julia Brooker puts it: “I passionately maintain my, perhaps unfashionable, belief in the human need for beauty.”
As a result, for the last 12 years she has “been driven in the attempt to make beautiful paintings. I want people to stop and look for a moment, forget everything else.” She certainly succeeds in this endeavour. When viewed in the flesh, Julia's large-scale, jewel-bright paintings on gleaming aluminium are show-stoppingly attractive. She works solely on aluminium because she was seduced by the way that it reflects light off its surface through veils of transparent colour: “I revel in the sumptuousness of paint as it sits on the cool surface of the aluminium.” The paintings are great squares of shimmering colour and many of the works provide an intoxicating hit of acid hues against the calm solidity of their aluminium background. The viewer cannot help but be lured in closer to examine the horizontal, hand-painted tendril lines and fine brushwork, witnessing and enjoying the movement of the paint on the metal surface, the tiny accidental droplets that fall, the “hand-madeness” of the paintings.
Some works are deliciously bright, others more toned-down, often incorporating both acrylic paint and hand-drawn graphite elements on the surface. Julia uses huge paint brushes, small Chinese brushes, cloths, windscreen wipers, sponges… even hands to apply the paint to make different layers of colour and pattern. Before she became a painter she studied ceramics and was drawn to the lustrous crystalline glazed surfaces “like sugar icing on coarse clay”.
In short, the works are an “aesthetic experience” and Julia frequently refers to a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer (1788- 1860), who describes aesthetic experience as “what happens when we see something beautiful … time standing still, that of the universal being perceived in the particular, and that of the spectator being taken out of himself and forgetting his own existence altogether in the rapt contemplation of what lies before us ... art ... provides us with a release, if only momentary, from the prison we ordinarily inhabit.”
The works require an exceptional amount of physical energy and labour to produce due to their scale and surface area. Julia describes her studio experience as “my theatre and I am the director.”
Julia’s work has gained her much critical acclaim and has been commissioned for prestigious interior design projects and corporate spaces, including a series of large paintings commissioned by Hirsch Bedner Associates for a luxury project in the United Arab Emirates. She has exhibited at the Curwen Gallery in London, London/ Premio Comel Art Prize Exhibition in Latina, Italy, New Academy Gallery in London, Casa FOA in Buenos Aires, a solo exhibition at K Wah Building in Hong Kong and many more.