NPA Lab | 2020

Alison Turnbull


Alison Turnbull is an artist who transforms readymade information – plans, diagrams, blueprints, charts – into abstract paintings.

Sam van Strien


Sam van Strien is a visual artist driven by the question of how – and where – we experience architecture. He was shortlisted for the Clyde & Co Art Award in 2014 – 2015.

Sam van Strien

A Pattern Language’ (2020)

Graphite on paper (46 x 46cm)

During our meeting over Zoom, Alison Turnbull and I discussed our art practices and the changing cultural landscape of London, as well as more generally the impact of Covid-19 on our experiences of art. 

Sam van Strien

Surface Divides (Columbus Center Lobby’) (2020))

Graphite on paper (37 x 37cm)

At the beginning of our meeting I showed Alison around my studio space, as well as a few of the works I’d made earlier in the year, which included rubbings from buildings and laser-cut engravings mounted onto plywood panels. I discussed my increasing frustration over what I feel has been a period of inactivity in the studio, especially during a time when I’ve been trying to find work. Alison highlighted that even during moments of uncertainty in our lives it is an act of self-care to sustain our work as artists. It can be easy to fall out of the rhythm of art making; making art is good for us, and it is a process that cultivates more work. It reminded me of how a friend spoke about their ceramics practice, which they likened to the work of a farmer. The act of tending to their studio – through a process of trials, errors and failures – eventually led to something.

Sam van Strien

Surface Divides’) (2020)

Graphite on paper (70 x 50cm)

On the subject of London, we reflected upon the ways its cultural landscape has dramatically changed. When Alison first moved to London in the late 1980s there was no expectation that you could live from the work you made in the studio, and you certainly made no assumption that you’d engage within a global, transnational art market as might be the case now. During the 1980s, local art scenes – even in such a big city such as London – was what you were a part of. This reality ultimately meant you had to have a part-time job to sustain the work you made in the studio. Young artists might expect something quite different now, where you can with a bit of luck, talent and connections, become quite successful. However, while there are a lot of opportunities for artists – along with a greater emphasis on developing a ‘professional practice’ – the art world is a more competitive place now than ever. This is especially true in London where there’s an abundance of artists going for the same opportunities.


Sam van Strien

Rendering (Pt.2)’ (2020)

Graphite on paper (56 x 76cm)

On a final note we exchanged our experiences of art during the times of Covid-19, and our lack of interest in ‘online viewing rooms’ and ‘virtual exhibitions’. We’ve both felt an overwhelming desire to see art in person over the past few months, along with an aversion to seeing work that has been recreated for an online viewing experience (such as digital versions of painting exhibitions). Over the last few years much of our engagement with art has been filtered through instagram and the internet. However, possibly as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions we might want to have an unmediated and tactile experience of art. This is especially true for mediums such as drawing and painting, which Alison and I work in. Instead of an abundance of art, maybe now is a time to see art slowly and with a little more intention (and attention).



Sam van Strien

A Pattern Language’ (2020)

Graphite on paper (37 x 47cm)

Sam van Strien received his MFA in Painting & Drawing from Ohio State University (2017) and his BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (2014). Sam has exhibited nationally and internationally, and completed several residencies, most recently at PADA Studios, Lisbon, Portugal (2019). Previous awards include the Sainsbury Scholarship at the British School at Rome (shortlist, 2018) and a Graduate Teaching Associateship at Ohio State University (2014 – 2017). In 2021 Sam will be an artist-in-residence at the NARS Foundation in New York City with the support of a Netherland-America Foundation Cultural Grant.



Alison Turnbull

‘Ecliptic’ (2020)

Oil, acrylic, and silverpoint on canvas (150 x 230cm)

Alison Turnbull transforms readymade information – plans, diagrams, blueprints, charts – into abstract paintings. The found source material is reimagined and made vivid through colour and the intensity of the worked picture surface. 

Just as Turnbull’s paintings vary widely in scale, her source material also refuses to be bound by prescribed parameters. It ranges from architecture to astronomy, from mathematics to the natural world. Yet for all their external reference points, these works are very much abstract paintings, removed from the conventions of narrative. 

Turnbull’s interest in architecture has been a generative starting point for much of her work and has led to a number of architectural commissions and projects in public spaces. 

Alison Turnbull lives and works in London and is represented by Matt’s Gallery, London.