Our 2017/18 emerging artist award winner Deborah Grice tells us how being part of the New Light Prize Exhibition transformed her career.


Deborah Grice with a selection of her work.

Born in a village in East Yorkshire, not far from the Yorkshire Wolds, Deborah Grice grew up under big skies. Running around in large open spaces as a child imbedded in her a love of dramatic landscapes.  Whilst at the University of Glasgow, field trips up to the Hebrides and the channel Isles during her study the Royal College of Art further galvanised her fascination with landscapes. Her time at RCA challenged her to work in the studio and from sketchbooks, it was here her work evolved and developed to become less representational and evoke something deeper.

Although she had originally wanted to become a war artist, her plans for her career came to a drastic halt after her degree show when she became unwell with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Whilst she watched friends from college develop their careers and gain successes, Grice was laid up in a hospital bed.  Many years later after becoming frustrated with the lack of impetus to produce work she took part in the Sky Arts prize and then the New Light Prize when she won the Emerging Arts Award and the patronage of the Saul Hay Gallery which led to many subsequent exhibitions. When we asked Deborah what she would say to artists thinking about applying this was her response:

“JUST DO IT!! The quality of the location is top, they get the right eyes in, the right clientele, the work gets in front of the right people, and it sells.  The opening night is something else, there was such a sense of energy and excitement and I felt part of the New Light family. There really is nothing to lose, it was superb! Of all the prize exhibitions I have now been in, the New Light one was the one I was most proud of”

Coastal Moonlight II

The years of frustration and the influence of a lifetime of struggle can be tangibly felt in her work. Walking through landscapes has been a cathartic release for Grice she described the experience of “Walking around in the wilderness “wuthering heights style’ searching for an answer.”

Deborah’s work attempts to offer that answer. The combination of strong chiaroscuro and perspective line offers a connection between the anguish and struggle and a larger universal perspective.

When asked which contemporary artist she most resonates with, she declares. “James Turrell,” who’s work can be experienced and Yorkshire Sculpture Park as well as Kielder in Northumberland.  In a similar way to the way Turrell uses physical structure, Grice frames light using paint, like Turrell her work is only fully present through the experience of its observer.  Using traditional painting methods of perspective line and strong ciaroscuro combined with graphic overlaying linear interventions and poignant indicative titles, her work captures moments of inspiration. The effect of these exquisite and subtle combinations elicits a contemplative response that requires her audience to reflect in the moment, to find perspective and hope.

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