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Jasmin Aziz
11 June 2021

Spotlighting Brighton Art: Orna Schneerson Pascal

Orna Schneerson is a Brighton-based artist and has exhibited her work in galleries across Brighton, Lewes, Sussex, London, and Tel Aviv. She was one of the winners of the 2020 Habitat Brighton art project, which invited artists to create work inspired by Brighton and is currently working on a series of paintings that are going to be displayed at a gallery in Cornwall this July. As June marks the start of Brighton’s Artists Open House Festival, we wanted to interview Orna to find out how she got started as an artist and her experience selling her paintings during the lockdowns of last year.

You can follow Orna's work on her website and Instagram, and can book a visit to her colourful home to view her fabulous collection of art by emailing her
How long have you lived in Brighton and what encouraged you to move here from Israel?
My husband and I made the move to the UK from Israel in 1990, just after the Gulf War. We had always wanted to live in London! After 11 years in London we then decided to relocate to Brighton after falling in love with the city, and we’ve been here for the last 20 years. Brighton reminded me of a combination of Haifa and London. I loved how close it was to nature with the South Downs and the seaside, how arty the city is and that it was small enough to get around easily with children.

How long have you been painting for and where do you get your inspiration from?
I’ve been painting since I was a small child - I was always doing something creative with my hands! Even with my dolls I used to design and make all their clothes myself, but at one point I simply fell in love with painting and using brushes. Painting really took me to a safe place where I felt relaxed and at home and I never looked back.

I don’t have specific inspirations for my art - everything inspires me! I see patterns and colours all the time in my mind, inspired by the world around me, and express them on canvas. But at an early age I did come across Picasso, who is the most impactful artist that has influenced my work. After I discovered his art I felt so connected to Picasso as an artist, as I related to his unique and colourful way of expressing himself, and it made me feel less alone. His art empowered and encouraged me to push forward with my own artistic expression and to be true to myself.
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Can you tell us about a favourite painting you created?
That’s a difficult question! I have over 100 of my favourite paintings that I would never want to give away, and that decorate my house. In the past, I used to regret parting ways with some of my favourite paintings, but thankfully I’m better about giving them away now. I’m glad to be a very content artist. I know a painting is finished when I get a very happy feeling in my gut, but if I feel it’s not yet ready, I always keep going until the feeling comes. Each day I wake up excited about what I’ll create to express how I feel through my art. Every painting feels like a new life.

How did the lockdowns of last year impact you as an artist?
The last year was a massive change for so many people in many ways, but for me lockdown didn’t feel all that different from my day to day life pre Covid-19. I continued to work from home in the art studio in my attic and enjoyed visits to nature for inspiration. Luckily for me, my website and social media allowed people to still view my work online, and I definitely saw a surge in interest as people found more time and appreciation for original art, and more interest to invest in their homes.

During lockdown there was also a worldwide Artist Support Pledge campaign to help artists sell their work at lower prices, and as the post offices remained open, I actually got to send my work across the world - even my largest ones! Last summer, I was a part of the Artists Open House programme, where I got to display my art in my own front garden for people to view in a socially distant way, and I really loved that, plus I managed to exhibit my art on the seafront in October. People really wanted to see art during lockdown.

What do you think BNJC will offer the Jewish community in Brighton and wider Sussex?
The BNJC development sounds so exciting. When I first heard of the plan to build this Jewish Community hub in Hove, I thought it was a miracle! We’ve never had something like this in the time I’ve lived in Brighton, and I look forward to everything it will bring to the community. It’s a unique project and all the news around the progress feels very uplifting and exciting. It’s so great because many Jewish people have been wanting something like this for a while, and as a mother to two Young adult boys, I look forward to them enjoying the facilities and events when it’s open next year.