Friday, 19 April 2013

Solo Showing for Otley’s Julia Odell

by Tom Swain

Already award-winning, the teacher-turned-artist presents her debut solo exhibition to the world – via Otley. Julia Odell speaks to Tom Swain.

She has been painting for just four years, having given up on the practicalities of transporting the cumbersome ceramic sculptures she created before turning to canvas - but that doesn’t mean Julia Odell doesn’t know her way around a paintbrush.

Julia has already won awards, beating nearly 700 entrants to win first prize at the 2012 Harrogate Mercer Open Art Competition with her acrylic painting, Nithering Almscliffe. And now her first solo exhibition is being hosted by new exhibiting space The Old Grammar School Gallery on Clapgate in Otley.

The exhibition, Imaginary Sandbanks, includes her prize-winning Nithering Almscliffe, as well as pieces depicting local landscapes, ranging from Burnsall village to Bingley’s Five-Rise Locks. But these works aren’t simply literal representations of the landscape. Julia is more concerned with using emotion and memory to inform her work, and explained how her canvasses are “already removed from reality just through the process of painting.”

She also pointed out how it is a misnomer that local art lacks national quality, and points to great artists of history: “Everything Cézanne or Monet did was local to them. It became of national importance afterwards. Dropping unnecessary information from a mundane scene, and adding from memory, makes it of national relevance.”

Julia Odell, Nithering Almscliffe

With studio space at Otley Courthouse, Julia is one of a handful of talented artists rising to local prominence. A solo exhibition at one of the area’s most exciting galleries, only a stone’s throw from the Courthouse, is testament to that fact.

Julia has her art in private collections across the world, from USA to India to Australia, but her first solo exhibition is proudly Otley’s. For The Old Grammar School Gallery too, the picture seems to be rosy enough.

Gallery manager Zack Whitehead, admits the art world is new to him, but is delighted with how the first few months have gone. “I’ve never been to art college, and I’ve never produced art, but having been in sales all my life, I know what sells. As a commercial gallery, we’re here to make money,” he said.

Clearly, the venture needs to be profitable if the gallery is going to keep going, but Zack is also determined to showcase and promote local talent. He said: “I’m really excited about where Julia is going, and being part of the development of local artists is really great.”

Julia will be exhibiting at The Old Grammar School Gallery again in November, where she will unveil a large-scale canvas that will be of some serious local and national interest. Julia didn’t want to reveal too much in the press just yet, however, but hinted that the piece will focus on local inner-cities, “wrought iron trees” and “catastrophic cock-ups”.

Julia Odell

Julia is online at, and more information on The Old Grammar School Gallery in Otley can be found at

Follow Tom Swain on Twitter: @tjoswain.

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