Santa Monica-based British artist Damian Elwes has been painting the studios of other artists for decades now. From those of masters like Picasso and Matisse to his more recent depictions of Basquiat and Georgia O’Keefe’s studios, his artworks are historically accurate pictorial peeks into these private sanctuaries where creativity thrives.
The Work of Artist Damian Elwes
You will also notice in the following pieces that, in addition to featuring each artist’s works in progress, the actual depiction of the studio is rendered in the style of that particular artist.
Elwes had an interesting life. Born in 1960 he was raised and schooled in London. When he was 17 he bicycled from Bordeaux to Italy. In 1979, he backpacked across South America and began attending Harvard. In 1980 he started an annual summer ritual – visiting Morocco to learn to paint light. In 1982 he met and was photographed by Andy Warhol. Upon graduation from Harvard in 1983, his play writing professor gave him a palette knife that had once belonged to Henri Matisse and which Matisse had given it to Alice B. Toklas. That same year he met Keith Haring who encouraged him to paint.
His first paintings were included in a graffiti exhibition at Robert Fraser Gallery with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in 1984. The following year he was introduced to Basquiat. And it was while he in Paris from 86-87 that he began make paintings of contemporary artists’ studios. In 1998 he began building a house and studio in Colombia where he lived from 1992-2000 overlooking a rain forest. Solo shows of his work began in 1999 and have continued ever since.
Elwes did not paint these on a whim. Each has been researched quite carefully. He has visited each studio beginning with his trip to Collioure to research the earliest in the series, the one in which Matisse invented Fauvism in 1905. Some were still in existence, others had to be recreated through old photographs and research. Since then he has traveled to art studios all over and culled hundreds of images of them from the Internet and other traditional resources.
It is no accident that the artists are not physically present in any of their painted studios, that Picasso’s hefty thereness in his Cannes studio in 1956 is indicated only by the bentwood rocker in which he would sit to study a work in progress. Elwes wants the viewer to feel he is witnessing creation, which is why his paintwork never sets out to confront his subjects “mano a mano” but has a feel of openness, of a space in which something is surely about to happen. – CREATIVE SPACES By Anthony Haden-Guest
“I spend a lot of time researching the studios that I want to paint and then travel around and visit these places. Sometimes I have been lucky enough to discover studios of Picasso or Matisse that have been lost to history. The painting, “Matisse’s Studio in Collioure,” describes a studio like that where the current occupants had no idea that this was the place where Matisse and Derain explored Fauvism in 1905.” – Elwes
Elwes will be having a large show in Paris in 2018 that will contain these pieces and more. The show will be up for a full year.
Follow him on Instagram where he posts much of his wonderful work.
all images courtesy of the artist