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“I find beauty in visceral themes” out all about them makes for a pretty varied and interesting job. There’s been a gulf between what design education offered and the industry needed.

JAMIE GALLAGHER Though a graphic designer by trade, Jamie’s turned painter in recent years; partly for fun, partly as a sort of therapy I seem to be constantly juggling my life. On the one hand

I’m founder and creative strategist at Hello, a brand design agency just outside Bath, and on the other I’m a figurative painter. I always used to keep it private and use it as a form of therapy almost, but now it’s becoming part of my identity. We’ve just moved to Nunney.

It’s a small village just outside Frome, and we’re on the cusp of finishing the renovation of a beautiful Georgian house – so knackered doesn’t come close. We come to Bath a lot, as its our nearest city. I’ve always loved the pace there, it’s just more chilled and easy than Bristol. We used to spend lots of time in Hunter & Sons, drinking outrageously good stout and eating buttermilk chicken – but when James Hunter closed and moved away we had to start spreading our gastronomic wings. Beckford Bottle Shop’s still there, though, so we’re surviving.


My favourite part of Bath is that snook up Bartlett Street to Saville Row. I love the shops there,

and it used to have two brilliant art galleries, Edgar Modern and David Simon Contemporary, now moved to Castle Cary. It’s a really interesting slice of independent businesses – and when you get to the top you’re at BBS.

I got into design because I liked comics. The prospectus for the

local art college in Hereford, where I grew up, showed kids drawing comics on the graphic design course page, and I thought that looked loads better than A levels. I opted for the art college route, rather than sixth form, and never looked back. I studied in Bristol and, since then, have spent 20 years in the industry. It’s the people and variety that have made it such a fascinating job – as a designer you essentially solve problems, and that’s addictive, so combining that with meeting people and finding

As an agency owner and employer, I felt our industry was missing out on talent by only drawing from the university system – so we’ve hired plenty of amazing talent from outside of this. I joined forces with some other local agency owners and founded Werkhouse, to deliberate the changing needs of the commercial design industry. How can graduates avoid the shock of deadlines and client negotiation when they enter a real studio environment? And how can we attract those creative thinkers for whom university is unaffordable or just not part of their expectations? Design is clearly an appealing industry. It exposes you to

interesting work and cool working environments, but it’s a lot tougher now – the expectations of clients are much greater, and the quality and volume of talent available to agencies is huge, so to stand out students need to be really dedicated, have great attitude – and hustle. A decent portfolio isn’t enough any more: how you handle yourself is almost more important. Painting started as therapy for me. I lost two close friends and

colleagues to cancer in the space of a couple of years, both young people in their early-mid thirties, and I started painting again to work through some of the stuff I was trying to process. I really found a flow, and since then I’ve pushed harder to develop my work and have been humbled by the response. I paint in an old mill in Frome, in the most stunning loft. It’s a beautiful space, and quite a contrast to my day job.

I paint predominantly in oils.

My work explores the concept of ‘identity’, as individuals are forced to experience psychological and emotional challenge, probably because of the relatively traumatic

experiences that inspired me to start. It finds beauty in life’s more visceral themes. I love the raw physicality of painting. I’ve a deep connection

with the materials and tactility of the process. From the heavy impasto oils and raw, textured linens to the delicate gold leaf and bleeding inks, each mark I make is instinctive, each image forged during the process, rather than conceived of in advance. My last show, Post Normality Reality Disorder, explored the psychological effects on society of the current extremes of social, political and cultural disruption. I think ‘post normality’ is a pretty good description of our world. I’m not really painting to make artwork to match someone’s interior decor. The people who

buy my work seem to connect with it on a personal level, and that’s exciting. I’m currently represented by Blackwater Gallery in Cardiff, a modern contemporary gallery situated in Cardiff Bay. I’m really proud to have it shown alongside their incredible stable of artists, such as Patricia Volk from Bradford on Avon and Loribelle Spirovski, an amazing figurative painter from Australia. The gallery is a beautiful split-level space, and really worth a visit.

I’m shockingly bad at painting skirting boards. For someone

with my creative resume. n

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Bath Life – issue 399  

Bath Life – issue 399