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Bobbye Fermie

“All the world’s a stage…” If our whole lives are performances, what happens when we get stage fright? In her solo show 16 One Act Plays, Bobbye Fermie presents an enigmatic series of quietly theatrical paintings, in which anxieties rub up against feelings of safety and notions of public performance are held in tension with introspection.

Fermie’s work is inspired in part by Victorian toy theatres, in which cut-outs of architectural features, furniture, and people are slotted into place one after another to create scenographic depth, framed by theatrical curtains. Working across watercolour, drawing, and acrylic on canvas, Fermie deploys a similar process of cutting out and collaging, overlaying spatial backgrounds with silhouetted figures as well as patterns drawn from botanical and domestic imagery.

This body of work is deeply concerned with the relationship between public and private. Figures are overlaid with perforated shapes that both reveal and conceal; a lace curtain, for example, or a grid of flowers inspired by an antique air vent. Fermie repeatedly asks the viewer to consider the relationship between the figure and their surroundings; are they choosing to hide, or are they waiting to step out to perform? Are they comfortable among the objects beside them, or do they feel trapped?
Fermie’s female characters are often depicted within safe, homely settings, but they are simultaneously being thrust into a theatrical spotlight. They are either staged in isolation or caught in intimate shared moments, enclosed in a domestic context that has been constructed for the viewing pleasure of an unseen audience – a voyeuristic perspective implicitly shared by the viewer.

There is a timelessness to Fermie’s oeuvre. The use of silhouettes and familiar patterns forges a visual world of archetypes, in which objects and people carry a weight of unidentifiable emotions. Botanical motifs symbolise a meeting point between inside and outside, where the domesticated meets the wild in a way that is elegantly beautiful while always subtly threatening to spin out of control.

Each “one act play” tells a complex yet mysterious narrative, in which motivations and backstories are tantalisingly obscure. Frayed canvas threads suggest an unravelling of relations, replete with social anxieties and internalised conversations. In some pieces, figures appear to fade or to stand unwittingly beside their own ghostly echoes, hinting at a sense of uncertainty around personal boundaries. Fermie’s paintings tread the fine line between personhood and persona; between our true selves and the versions of ourselves we present to the world.


15 May - 5 June 2024


Bobbye Fermie (b. 1990, Amsterdam, NL) practice is an ongoing response to themes of isolation, personal boundaries and social anxiety. Fermie's practice explores the archetypal portrayal of interiors and homes within culture and storytelling, such as theatre sets and advertisement. Her work explores the juxtaposition between the public and private space and process internal emotions through the use of sets and scenes. Fermie's watercolour paintings and collages depict imagined worlds that are often inhabited by fictional, shapeshifting characters. The viewer is invited into the world of these characters and glimpses a scene of ambiguity following imagined intimate moments. Narratives are often slightly obscured or one layer removed from the viewer, giving them a feeling of separation or voyeurism.

Fermie completed the post graduate degree ‘The Drawing Year’ at the Royal Drawing School, London in 2015 after completing her bachelor in Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. Fermie has participated in several artist residencies including Porthmeor Studios (2021, 2023) and Hafod Residency (2016).

2014- 2015 Royal Drawing School, Post Graduate Diploma
2011-2014 Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, BA Fine Art
2009-2010 Royal Academy of Art The Hague, Photography

Solo Exhibitions
2024 16 One Act Plays, Wilder Gallery, 15th May- 5th June
2023 To Set the Stage (online), Artist Focus, Wilder Gallery
2023 Tales of the Home (online), Oliver Projects

Selected Group Exhibitions

What She Said, Purslane Gallery
London Original Print Fair, Soho Revue
Origins, RHODES Contemporary Art
London Art Fair, 155a Gallery

The Peace of Wild Things (online), Violet Hour
Group show, A Mon Avis, Copenhagen
Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, Oliver Projects
The Forever Now, Art City Works
Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy
In my hand a forest lies asleep, Violet Hour
Opening, A Mon Avis, Copenhagen

Pageant, Violet Hour
Oneiric, Purslane Gallery
The Duchy, Arc Padstow, The Artist Contemporary
Works on Paper 4, Blue Shop Cottage
London Art Fair, 155a Gallery
A Material World, Liliya Art Gallery,
What She Said, Purslane Gallery
RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition

Soft Shadows, with Emily Fairlie Baker, 155a Gallery
Artist Focus (online), Wilder Gallery
Reveille, Violet Hour
Winter Fair, 155a Gallery
The Artists’ Oracle, White Crypt Gallery
Ambrosia (online), Purslane
Mothflower (online)
Green Fires (online), Violet Hour

This is Where We Meet, Carousel London
Original | Paper (online), Wilder Gallery
On the Strangest Sea (online), Violet Hour
Summer group show, 155a Gallery
The Art Register at Sophie Breitmeyer
Works on Paper 1 and 2 (online), Blue Shop Cottage
Winter Salon, 155a Gallery

Alter- Pieces, Platform Southwark (co-curated)

Awarded Residencies
The Residency, Villa Lena, Tuscany, supported by patron
Katy Wickremesinghe, June 2024
Porthmeor Studios, Cornwall, Jan-Feb 2021 and Nov-Dec 2023
Dumfries House, Scotland, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2022
Coombes Farm Devon, ‘How Trees Talk’ April 2019
Hafod Estate, Wales, September 2018
Borgo Pignano, Tuscany, October 2016

2022 TOAST Magazine, words by Mina Holland, photographed by Elena Heatherwick
2021 Little Book of Artists by Kelly Jay
2021 The Artists’ Oracle, Card Oracle Deck, White Crypt
2020 It’s Freezing in LA, ‘Lessons for Environmentalism in Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You’, issue 6
2019 The Drawing Ideas Book, Frances Stanfield
2019 Ways Of Drawing: Artists’ Perspectives and Practises, Royal Drawing School

Bobbye Fermie
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