Artist Tory Lawrence celebrates the strength and personality of horses

Horse Approaching by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOUG ATFIE

Horse Approaching by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOUG ATFIELD - Credit: Archant

Portraits are all about capturing personality as well as a likeness. Artist Tory Lawrence tells Arts editor Andrew Clarke that she has always applied that approach to her paintings of horses

 Night Horse 2 by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOUG ATFIELD

Night Horse 2 by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOUG ATFIELD - Credit: Archant

North Suffolk-based equestrian artist Tory Lawrence has spent her life around horses. She knows how they look, how they move and that each animal has a personality of its own.

This is what Tory invests in each painting. In 2011 she had a major show at The National Horse Racing Museum at Newmarket which depicted horses in the landscape. Now she is preparing to unveil a new solo show at the A & D Gallery in London which has the horses emerging from darkness or from coloured backgrounds. This has the effect of throwing our entire attention upon the horse.

Tory has the ability to not only portray the individual beauty of each horse but manages to convey its personality and to animate it. Looking at these lovingly painted equine portraits you feel their sense of power.

Tory is pleased with the results. “It’s about really looking at horses. Looking, I mean really looking, and understanding horses. I’ve grown up around horses. My father was a racehorse trainer, I rode from the age of two. I show jumped professionally as a teenager, rode point to point and evented.

Artist Tory Lawrence in her studio.

Artist Tory Lawrence in her studio. - Credit: Archant


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“Now my daughter trains racehorses and her daughter, who’s now 21, rides in events, point to point and dressage and I go and visit them quite a lot and look at the horses and draw them. They are the basis of these paintings, these moving horses.

“When you see the horse in motion then you get an idea of the animal as an individual – you get to see their character traits.”

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For Tory removing the backgrounds, the landscape-settings, so much a part of her previous work, was a bold, experimental step. “What was new for me was having the coloured backgrounds and having that colour reflect on the horses, so in effect in one picture you have a blue horse.”

In another painting a horse is seen cantering through an orange background but the movement of the horse sets up swirls and eddies in the colour around it – again emphasising that sense of power and animation.

Jackdaw, Battersea Park, by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOU

Jackdaw, Battersea Park, by Tory Lawrence, part of her new Horses and Birds exhibition. Picture: DOUG ATFIELD - Credit: Archant

In contrast in the painting entitled Horse Approaching, a horse appears to emerging from the darkness, appearing ghost-like, illuminated by the moon. It’s a picture which creates a sense of narrative in your head. Looking at it on the wall ahead of you puts you in the middle of that scene. You are encountering that magnificent animal on that dark night.

But, this new show is not just about horses. In another part of the gallery Tory has a collection of mischievous bird paintings on show. “I don’t really know why I put horses and birds together in one exhibition. I wanted to draw and paint some birds so I painted them. I also felt that, perhaps, an entire gallery of horses might be too much, so I thought the birds would provide a contrast.”

As with her paintings of horses, these bird paintings, largely watercolours, offer a glimpse into the cheeky personalities of the jackdaws and crows which have captured her attention.

“These are the birds that flock into my garden and the ones I see in the London parks when I go there. Again, they don’t sit still they are always moving and I try and capture that in the painting.

“I also wanted to paint them in situ, in the landscape, because that’s the world they inhabit. I have also started to experiment with different styles and materials. On one picture I have incorporated sand on the surface of the picture and that gives a different dynamic and a different texture to the picture.”

Tory Lawrence: Horses and Birds, A & D Gallery, Chiltern Street, London until May 27.

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