Born in Auckland in 1948, Russell Hollings showed an interest in art from a young age, consolidating his reputation and talent by nineteen when he won his first art award: the R. J. Barnett Award.
Hollings spent his childhood in Papakura, where he derived inspiration from his immediate surroundings. The areas of Clevedon, Alfriston, Hunua and Pukekohe, combined with the landscapes of Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula provided ample scope for Hollings to paint in the manner of the French Impressionists – en plein air, outside within the environment that he was intending to capture.
Mainly a self-taught artist, Hollings received invaluable guidance from Ida Eise OBE who directed him in the rudimentary skills of painting such as compositional organization, tonal variations and draughtsmanship. Russell continued to draw inspiration from artists who he admired such as those from the English school of painting that included artists Ken Howard, Frederick Cuming, Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield as well as work by fellow New Zealand artists John Weeks and Garth Tapper. The renowned English artist Edward Seago provided Russell with further inspiration and encouragement as the two were in personal correspondence for years until Seago’s death in 1974. Russell later joined the Papakura Art Group, which provided him with stimulation to pursue his artistic career.
Hollings says of his paintings: “My work is figurative and begins from observation, something ‘seen’, however I also work from memory and imagination. I generally begin with sketchbooks, working drawings, colour notes and small paintings that are executed in situ and which later form the basis from which the final works are completed. The process is long and reflective, and in many cases enhances my painterly technique of building up and layering paint. I find it important to do this as it gives me essential breathing space, time to step back and consider all the important issues concerned with picture making including the balance of shape, the proportion of colour, the judgement of tone and general overall composition. Mood, atmosphere, reflection of landscape and subtle distinctions are all significant factors within my thinking and working process as I endeavour to portray a greater sense of truth and honesty within my paintings.”
From the late 1960s, Hollings held solo shows within New Zealand and from the 1990s began exhibiting in Australia and more recently in London at the prestigious New Grafton Gallery in Barnes. Hollings is based in Auckland but travels annually to Europe and the UK where he derives inspiration from the landscapes of Venice, Normandy, Tuscany and Umbria. He says: “…there’s something about the history of Europe that appeals to me. It’s a totally different environment to New Zealand… it’s appealing to be able to go away and paint.”
Hollings is an established artist within the New Zealand art scene and his work is held in private collections worldwide.