Karen Maxted and Gemma Petrie

What drew you to each other’s practice?

Our practices share similarities and also many differences. I was drawn to Gemma’s work during lockdown and asked her to take part in a collaborative postal project. I loved the energy in Gemma’s work and the peculiar shapes, transitions and juxtaposition of techniques. We are both preoccupied with the natural world; our work is abstract, but our outputs are radically different. We complement each other in that I work in a very controlled manner, planning everything, where Gemma works much more intuitively. In that sense we are good for each other and I was interested in what our work might look like combined, what we can take from each other and rework and how does that recycling of shapes and images push us forward both collectively and individually?

How will you use the 1:1 FUND?

We will be travelling to Orkney and studying the sea, the weather, and hopefully the seals. The idea is to use the time to carry out observational drawing, repeating observations of the same places at different times. It will be a change for us to be working more immediately and responding to each other in real time.

Why did you choose the idea you will be working on?

We both love wild swimming and had read Swimming with Seals by Victoria Witworth. The autobiographical novel is a book of repetition which charts the changes to the Orkney landscape over time, overlaying stories and imagery. Whilst Witworth’s specialisms are history and swimming, what resonated with us were the concepts of repetition, weaving stories and the connection to the landscape.

What is the one thing you most hope to gain from undertaking this work?

This trip will allow us to fully explore without the pressure of ‘exhibitable work’ how we are able to respond to the same environment and share different ways of mark making.


Karen Maxted grew up in Glasgow and studied at Edinburgh College of Art. She was the recipient of the Katherine Michaelson Prize (2018) and the University of Edinburgh Annual Art Collection Purchase Prize (2018). She lives in Troon, Ayrshire. She has works in collections with the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian. Karen’s practice results in the creation of surreal landscapes through built modular collage and painting. Her work explores and selectively cuts fragments from contemporary paintings produced by other artists, reconfiguring them into new combinations. Karen builds new worlds with these fragments and explores the creation of ambiguous narratives provoking of otherworldliness.   Karen plays with the human desire to find recognisable forms by arranging the shapes into compositions which look as if they feature characteristics of the natural world; fictitious shapes appear somehow familiar; as flora and fauna, rocks or rivers.

Gemma Petrie is an artist living and working near the small village of Portmahomack on the Tarbatness Peninsula, in the north east of the Highlands. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art, specialising in Drawing and Painting. She was brought up on the Isle of Skye and because of this, nature and landscape have always been important in her work. Her paintings, for the most part, are about memories. She uses natural form as a basis for her work. Within this space she incorporates moments. She uses gentle hues layered with vibrant contrasts, stitching together fragments of memory with observed palettes from nature. Gemma uses many different materials, working on both paper and board. Nearly every painting includes an element of drawing. Whichever medium she uses she employs techniques meant for watercolour, mixing it the same way, and applying it in a similar manner.







Gemma Petrie (left) and Karen Maxted (right) in Gemma's studio, August 2021, credit: Iona Bateman
Gemma Petrie (left) and Karen Maxted (right) in Gemma's studio, August 2021, credit: Iona Bateman
Karen Maxted and Gemma Petrie, Collaborative piece. Acrylic on board, 20 x 30cm. Image: Gemma Petrie