Artist in Residence: Andy Holden

Andy Holden was NN Contemporary Art’s new Artist in Residence for the Autumn 2021 – Spring 2022 period. 

During his residency, Holden researched and developed a film about the life of an unknown artist from Bedford called Hermione (born Hermione Burton, 1926). The artist discovered her work through seeing the paintings for sale in a charity shop and has gradually tried to collect as many of the works as possible. Hermione died sometime in the late 90’s and her paintings were all kept, unseen, in the house of her husband until he passed away and the paintings were all discarded in a house clearance. 

Her paintings were only exhibited once in her lifetime however she self-published a small catalogue and autobiography essay which gives a lot of information about her remarkable life. The paintings all feature her in one way or another, in a mixture of biographical, fictionalised, and often surreal surroundings. She battled a number of serious illness and the paintings seem to create a fictionalised account of her life lived out through the act of painting and reimagining herself as she wished to be seen.

The last line of her autobiography says, “The wonderful thing about painting is making something permanent out of the transient”, and so as the custodian of her paintings I feel I should continue this sentiment and make visible, and permanent, her remarkable body of works, contextualising them and providing a new way for the paintings to be understood.  I hope to make a short biographical film about her life using her autobiographical text and her paintings as a starting point. The film is to be shown alongside an installation of all the collected paintings. 

Holden used the residency as a chance to research her life further, trying to find people that knew her, and attempt to track down more of her paintings. The film tells her story through animation and detailed photographs of the paintings, and the residency gave him the chance to plan and storyboard the initial stages of this process, and begin work on an essay that will evolve into a script.


The film and the artist’s collection of her paintings will go on display as part of British Art Show 9 at the Whitworth in Manchester and Andy Holden hopes to use this exhibition to question whose work gets seen in such contexts, and to reconsider the term ‘outsider artist’ in relation to painting and the history of art, as well as unpick the raw and tender themes that Hermione’s paintings suggest. 

About the artist

Andy Holden is an artist and musician who lives and works in Bedford, UK. His most recent solo exhibitions include British Art Show 9; Unnatural History, Herbert Coventry; Arcadia, Bold Tendencies, London; Natural Selection with Peter Holden, and Spike Island, Bristol. He recently curated Beano: The Art of Breaking Rules at Somerset House, London, opening 21st October.

You can find out more about Andy Holden on his website here.

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