JAI LLEWELLYN

 

To begin, could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a Welsh Jew! Welsh on my Fathers side and German Jewish on my mothers, my great grandparents came from Eastern Europe. I grew up in London but moved, with my mother, to a tiny village on the Lincolnshire coast at the age of 11. So a real mongrel! I think it is this mix of heritage and environments that have had the greatest impact on my work, a love of both the city grid and the wild beauty of nature, the sense of belonging or lack of it.

Describe your journey to becoming an artist. Has it been easy? Natural? What has been difficult?

I don’t think it has been easy though it may have been easier for me than it has been for others in the respect that art was not an unusual choice for neither my parents nor I. Art was around me from a young age, my mother paints and my stepfather is a photographer, my grandfather a collector. I still have the Da Vinci book I was given at 7 or 8 that sparked my imagination. It was Leonardo’s architectural drawings which first grabbed my attention and I remember trying to copy them and thinking that designing buildings was a cool thing to do. I did have a brief flirt with furniture design before realizing that the freedom of painting is what I really desired. I think the difficulty was having the confidence to call myself an artist. It took me a very long time to feel like I had anything to offer, or I was making work that said anything about myself. I don’t remember the exact moment but there was a time when someone asked me what I did, (I have had various menial jobs along the way to pay the bills) and I answered with confidence….I’M AN ARTIST! It was at that moment that I suddenly thought…YES I AM! That moment changed my perspective and changed my approach, it gave me a freedom and a weight was lifted.

How would you describe your work to someone?

I try not to, I would much rather they look at it and decide for themselves.

What is important for viewers to note when viewing your work?

The devil is in the detail. I spend a lot of time very close up to my paintings and every mark matters.

What is your process like? How important is process in understanding your work?

I’m not sure how important it is to the viewer and its not always obvious. The paintings are worked over again and again, colour and compositions are changing all the time, and the paintings are often destroyed and brought back to life. I work quickly, in short bursts but over long periods of time. The paintings have a history and I like to pay homage to that history even if its not always immediately visible, it is always there.

What does your work aim to say?

I am a painting!

 

Can you highlight some of your influences and discuss how they have impacted your work?

It’s hard to pin down and there have been too many to mention along the way. Different artists have been important to me at different times. Henry Moore, Euan Euglow, Terry Frost, Sandra Blow, Diebenkorn, Matisse, Alfred Leslie. I find it very reassuring when you find an artist that has been there before you, faced similar problems, it’s always a pleasure when you feel that affinity and you can learn from their visual thought processes. Its very encouraging and stops you from feeling like you’re going insane.

 

Where do you find inspiration?

I find it in many different places. In paintings mainly, but also when walking down the street, a colour combination, a line, a mark. The sky, the trees, buildings, I love architecture. The Georgian town houses in Edinburgh are very beautiful, the proportions are just perfect.

 

In your experience, what is the best thing about being an artist? What is the hardest thing about being an artist?

Freedom.

What piece of advice would you give to a young artist?

Don’t give up!

 
Adam Reid Fox