What The Water Gave Me comes to Onca Gallery

There’s nowhere on this island more than 70 miles from the coast. Britain has always held a special relationship with water, rivers and the sea. It permeates our history, stories, songs and art. Now Brighton-based artist Lily Rigby expands on the tradition with her new show, What The Water Gave Me.

Showing at the city’s Onca Gallery on Sat 9 – Sun 17 Nov, the work originally started earlier this year while away in Cornwall. “I have always been drawn to water and I have always loved the sea,” she says. “I think it is a symbol for change… I love how it is always moving and it’s so powerful. The change in tides feel like a chance for the old to be washed away and then they bring in something new again.”

Most of this summer was spent photographing and painting estuaries and coastlines across the south. Instead of offering perfect landscape recreations, these works offer more abstraction. “I don’t think you’d know they were of water. A lot of the paintings capture the atmosphere of a place.” She’s also been focussing on points where water and land meet, and the marks left behind. “I have been noticing things like light on the water or the sound it makes. Water has inspired my work in different ways for this exhibition and I have let the paintings evolve and become their own places.”


What The Water Gave Me offers a set of pieces which have been allowed to naturally develop. Rigby has become more experimental with these paintings, using different materials including spray paint for the first time. “I feel like the paintings have developed a lot since I started this body of work in April and I have created the work with no expectations or ideas of how I want it to look and I’ve just seen what comes out.”

Continuing the nautical theme, a portion of any gallery sales will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage, to help protect our oceans and all the wildlife living there. The show’s final concept came quite late in the process. After looking at the work and the places she’d been, Rigby looked up what water symbolises. “It’s always changing, so it symbolises new beginnings. I also started to look at the colours I was using and their history in paintings.” This enabled her to look at the slowly growing collection in other ways and form new understandings of what was happening. “Yves Klien said that blue doesn’t have any dimensions. I loved that, and it made me a become a little freer in my work,”



By Stuart Rolt – November 7, 2019
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