Karen Purple

Further Info

Karen Purple makes work that engages with the landscape, collecting images, natural materials and objects that go on to inform her work in the studio. She was selected for the Discerning Eye Exhibition (2015) and was a finalist for the Threadneedle Prize (2012) both at the Mall Galleries, London. She was also selected for exhibitions at the RWA, Bristol (2011,2012,2013). Her work is held in private collections as well as Art UK (formally the Public Foundation Catalogue). She regularly travels to the British coastline to work, and has been selected for residencies across the UK and Ireland.

The last few years have been spent working from a studio in the woods near her home in Oxfordshire.

Inspired by an interest in natural history and the work of both the biologist and the landscape historian, she makes work that engages with the landscape and the organic materials within it. Her drawings develop from these observations that are both a response to what she sees but also what she experiences. There is an intensity of looking at the smallest details, of finding colour in a winter landscape or a moment of stillness in full spring growth. She may be looking at the movement of water in a river or sea, exploring reflections and imagined happenings beneath the surface. She is fascinated by nature's activities constantly in a continuum and state of flux.

Drawings may also be made in the studio after Karen's daily walk where she can then work with memory of place. She is interested in how memory can become distorted over time, how some details can become dominant in the imagination and other details become slowly erased. She may refer to collected plant material, earth and other natural objects that have caught her eye and have a new home on her studio table. The drawings have to be made at the start of the day when the experience she has absorbed is still at the forefront of her mind, without distraction - so the paper will have been prepared and stacked waiting to be used. She will select the medium according to what feels the most appropriate - whether it is the softest chalk pastels, some found soil or charcoal, watercolour, acrylic or oil paint.

David Leeson - 2018

"Karen Purple’s paintings display an intimate and subtle approach to landscape painting where subject is mediated through memory. The surfaces of her work show a simmering yet substantial use of colour and with an application of paint that is both subtle and adventurous. Light, reflection, movement and touch are all elements that inhabit the surfaces and result in aesthetically enriched paintings."


Lives and Works in Oxfordshire
Member Wilcote Art Studios, Finstock, Oxfordshire
Associate Member Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford
2016-18 Turps Banana, post grad correspondence course
2004 Oxford Brookes, Fine Art (Honours) Degree, 1st Class

Solo Exhibitions

2015 Filament 14, Oxford
2014 Pennwood House, Oxfordshire,joint with ceramicist Crabby Taylor
2012 Pennwood House, Oxfordshire
2011 Pennwood House, Oxfordshire - 'Natural Worlds' two-person show with Fiona Hepburn
2010 North Wall, Oxford - ‘Fieldwork.’ Work made as a result of the residency at the Oxford University Harcourt Arboretum.
2010 Oxford University Arboretum
2008 Pennwood House, Oxfordshire - ‘Terre Verte’
2007 03 Gallery, Oxford - ‘Between here and there’. Presented by Oxford Visual Arts Development Agency in partnership with Oxford Castle Ltd.
2007 Riverhouse Community Arts Centre. 16 October - 24 November, 'Of pigment and memory.'
2007 Galanthus, March, Commercial gallery, Herefordshire, ‘New paintings - colour block series.’
2007 IceTwice, February. Commercial gallery, Buckinghamshire, ‘New paintings – pollen series.’
2006 Ovada, Oxford - ‘Paintings and Drawings – works inspired by pollen and pigment.’                                                           

Group Exhibitions

2021 Darl-e and the Bear, Wilcote Art Group Show, Woodstock

2021 Magdalen Road Studios, Hope Springs Eternal, Oxford

2021 BranchArts, In the Studios, Wilcote, Oxfordshire

2021 Zuleika Gallery, Art from the Heart, Woodstock

2020 Linden Hall Gallery, Lockdown online, Kent

2019, Oxford Open, Jam Factory, Oxford

2018, Open Studios, Wilcote, Oxfordshire

2018, Wilcote Art Gallery, Hidden Light, Wilcote, Oxfordshire

2017, Affordable Art Fair, Battersea

2017 Open Studios, Wilcote, Oxfordshire

2016 West Oxon Arts, Mini, Bampton

2016 Magdalen Road Studios, off site, Dis locate, Oxford

2016 Affordable Art Fair, Battersea

2015 Mall Galleries, The Discerning Eye, London

2015 Ovada Open, Oxford

2015 Kunsthuis Gallery,Yorkshire

2014 Kunsthuis Gallery,Yorkshire

2014 One Street Gallery, Bryant and Keeling Prize, Bucks

2014 Oxford Botanic Garden

2013 RWA, Drawn, Bristol

2013 03 Gallery, Oxford

2012 Mall Galleries, The Threadneedle Prize, London

2012 RWA, 160th Open, Bristol

2012 Wells and Mendip Museum, WAC, Somerset

2012 Filament 14, Oxford

2011 RWA Bristol, '159 Autumn Exhibition'

2011 Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford, 'Immediate Territory' 

2011 O3 Gallery, Oxford, Fifth Anniversary Show

2011 Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford, Open studios 

2011 Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford, 'Spring Show' 

2010 Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford, Open studios 

2009 Notfamousyet, Art Consultancy and Guerrilla Gallery, Oxford, ‘Small Obsessions’

2009 O3 Gallery, Oxford, EndNotes - In conjunction with Oxford Literary Festival and Oxfringe

2008 Modern Art Oxford, 'The Oxford Open'

2007 Beldam Gallery, Brunel University, Middlesex. 'Weathered'

2006 Surface Gallery, Nottingham, The Postcard Show’

2005 St Edwards School, finalist for SES Open Art Competition, Oxford, Selected by Karen Wright, editor of Modern Painters

2005 Affordable Art Fair, Battersea, ‘Pollen Paintings’

2004 Modern Art Oxford

2003 Oxford, ‘2541 crushed cochineal beetles’ Frevds café-bar, Oxford

2003 Oxford Brookes University, Degree Show

2002 Natural History Museum, Oxford, ‘Object Talk’


Public Catalogue Foundation


2016 Brison’s Veor, Cape Cornwall
2015 Gower Peninsula
2015 Filament 14, Oxford
2013 LifeBoat Studio, Porthleven
2010 Turbine House, Reading
2010 The Riverside Museum, Blake’s Lock, Reading. Three artists working in their own unique way to explore, discover, record collect and respond to the site with sound, video and drawing.
2009 Oxford University Arboretum, Nuneham Courtney. Art in the Arboretum. An International Project involving six artists from Europe and six from Oxford working outside on site for the duration.