It started on a bench in Berkeley Square. It was lunchtime on a glorious summer’s day with an hour snatched away from a busy office. A treat was in order: a baguette, camembert and a tub of olives from M&S. As they pinched bite-sized chunks off the cheese, two dreamers talked about ambitions. One to be a writer, the other, to own a gallery.

Sarah and Emma outside the gallery

Fast forward six years to a beautiful spring evening. The Hornshaw Gallery – an engaging online collection of contemporary art – is launching its first exhibition, Looking to the Stars, at The Brick Lane Gallery in the heart of east London’s creative district. Featured are some of the finest up-and-coming new artists, expertly selected by Sarah, the result of much passion and hard work.

Looking around the room, I’m so proud of my friend and everything she has achieved. The gallery is packed with people enjoying the exhibition, chatting to the artists, sampling canapés and sipping wine.

Hackneyed though the term may be (an east-London pun!), this exhibition was truly amazing. Every inch held an interest with a huge variety of work on offer.

The mesmerising colour in Barry Andrew’s paintings, which reminded me of the Rothkos I loved at university, drew a crowd.  

The Constable-esque, bucolic scenes of Andrew Farmer’s work were far more traditional, transporting you in a moment to an idyll of Little England.

By contrast, the surrealist sculptures and photographic prints of séances by John Patrick Egan were profound, striking and thought-provoking.

Equally surreal were Alice Lenkiewicz’s portraits, conjuring fairy tales, and ethereal summer solstices.

The vintage images on the collages by Simon Kirk, bearing quotes and daubed, vibrant backgrounds, projected a comic-book sense of playfulness.

The bright pinks and blues of Dara Park’s paintings of Spanish playgrounds soulfully evoked the spirit of youth and joyful freedom.

And Andrew Harrison’s minimal, sculptured wall art was full of impact, channelling starkness, noise and defiance.

It’s remarkable to think how far we’ve come since our days in Berkeley Square – the cusp of a new journey, I hope, for us and all of these exceptional artists, who are looking to the stars.

View full album of the launch party here.

By Emma Jessup

Emma has a lifestyle blog – She lives and works in London and writes about culture, fashion, travel and beauty.