Skip to main content

Following the new guidance issued by the government, Modern Art Oxford will be closed from Wednesday 23 December, until further notice. We look forward to welcoming you back to the gallery as soon as we can.

Landscape of memories – Ella Shepard Artist Takeover


Ella Shepard is an artist who is fascinated by the concept of reality and how it is perceived and filtered. For Modern Art Oxford’s Wellbeing Season (February – March 2021), she presents an experimental series of ‘moving’ oil paintings that represent the range of psychological influences in her work and, in the artist’s words, ‘depict the fluid elasticity of time.’ Presented on Modern Art Oxford’s Instagram feed and below, Ella’s original oil paintings are shown alongside the moving works to further explore the human tensions between tranquillity and unease, push and pull, immersion and separation.


-Words by Ella Shepard

Engage in your creative ‘flow’ state

As a painter you have to move fast, you’re in the moment, you’re within the painting. The experience of painting is a dance-like conversation between the creator and the creating where important distinctions get blurred, or lost altogether.  I experience ‘flow’ as embodying the physicality and performative nature of painting, where the painting becomes an extension of the self and I lose awareness of time, space and environment completely. Using sound as a stimulus I respond to the rhythm and beat of music and sometimes find myself unconsciously creating bursts of toxic colour and textures to mimic the ‘noise’ around me. There is an intensity to creating which is the explosive combination of excitement and nervous energy running through the body, as if the paint is flowing through the fingers uncontrollably. Inspired by dance and the gesticular non-linear motion of hand to pallet to canvas, the piece brings together the idea of the Self, observing the unapologetic force of the unseen Creator [accepting the potential of failure and not being phased by it]. With equal parts colour, materials and movement ‘Stepping Within’ captures the moments of inner freedom, the “merging of action and awareness” and the unified consciousness of flow.   

Ella Shepard, Stepping Within [Exhibited in ‘Flow’ Modern Art Oxford, 2020] oil on canvas, 20″ x 15″


The other-worldliness of water, breath and our unconscious realities


And are my waves of Breath, of Life, as gentle as a quiet sea, softly smoothing sandy stretches of yourself? And can you feel me as the link between your inner and outer worlds? Move with me, dance with me, sing with me, sigh with me… Love me. Trust me. Don’t try to control me. Let me nourish you completely, then set me free. 

‘Wake’ is a series of three circular paintings which were inspired by themes of dream realities and the submerged subconscious. Over the years I have exhibited the pieces at a variety of exhibitions and in a range of ways including an immersive installation. There are many different ways that water can act on the body. It is fascinating how water adds a distortion and abstraction, how it can create illusions and new textures. There is a quietness and other-worldliness to the substance of water; it is a constantly changing lens, reflecting and refracting reality. Water creates a film, a barrier between reality and the distorted dream world; the submerged female figure acting as the submerged human unconscious.The work exploits the tension between tranquillity and unease, push and pull, immersion and separation.  “The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.” – Virginia Woolf

Ella Shepard’s ‘Wake’ series features in My Friend the Sea, a breath meditation video by Najia Bagi, shared by Modern Art Oxford during Children’s Mental Health Week 2021. Funded by TORCH as part of the digital participatory project, Breathworks.

Ella Shepard, Wake (Series) oil on canvas, 24″ Tondo (3)


Walk through the landscape of your memories

With the omnipresence of the digital world, it’s hard to consider memory without being concerned with its digital counterpart. We are always and already installed in a reality of images, the question I tackle in my practice is how can I explore memory and image whilst still acknowledging the digital and moving one. Visual interruptions and digital distortions can be related to emotional glitches in my paintings where the paint has taken over the realistic representation and has been caught for a moment in cross-over between the representational space and the psychological one.  There is an uncanniness and fragility to the pandemic, which has been spoken about as reminiscent of war times, alongside the unsettling feeling of either time standing still, repeating itself or losing sense of days altogether, living in a blur. Given the circumstances of these strange and distorted times my subject matter has changed to honour a tableaux of life in motion, unaware and un-noticed. The ordinary scenes consider sometimes even banal memories, with a feeling of the familiar; allowing the viewer to choose the position as voyeur or involved in the experience presented. 

Ella Shepard, Alto Lounge, mixed media & oil on board , 20.5″ x 24″


About Ella Shepard
Working as resident artist at Leighton Park School, Ella has exhibited in Oxfordshire, Bath and London as well as further afield in Europe. She has shown work with Modern Art Oxford on a number of occasions, including being selected for the interdisciplinary open call exhibition, Flow (4 September – 10 October 2020), and the digital participatory project, Breathworks, (1-30 August 2020). Ella has taken part in residencies, undertaken commissions for vinyl artwork, worked with BiC pens and created pieces in collaboration with Parkinson’s UK. Her work also features as part of Oxford’s Public Art Collection. Read more on Ella’s website here.


Read more Wellbeing Season content by Modern Art Oxford below:
My Friend the Sea: A creative breath exercise for children
13 Creative Wellbeing Ideas for All Ages
Children’s Mental Health Week – List of Resources