Jake Grewall is a South London based artist whose eery, polychromatic paintings draw you into lambent and unknown scenes. His vivid use of colour creates a compelling juxtaposition in his work, which is at once colourful and dark, obvious yet mysterious. From September Grewal will begin studying at The Royal Drawing School. We caught up with Jake to discuss his work, his influences and the South London art scene.
How did you get into art?
I suppose I got into art by making work from a young age. I say ‘work’ loosely because it started as scribbles on a wall. I assume I’m like most creative people, it kind of happens naturally. However, it was made extremely easy for me. Both my parents are alumni of Central St Martins and I grew up in the creative hub of London. I was constantly encouraged to draw and paint while being taken to exhibitions. I was probably that kid people rolled their eyes at while trying to immerse themselves in a Rothko.
What’s your style?
I’d say my style is lurid and unsettling. I revel in depicting scenes and subjects that objectively shouldn’t be threatening, yet emit an air of the uncanny. I regularly reference the natural world within my paintings. I like how it can be allegorical. I feel like people tend to dismiss the landscape genre in contemporary painting so obviously I fixate upon it.
What do you do outside of art that influences your creativity?
My go-to is reading. Whenever I feel stifled I start a new book. Recently I’ve taken to downloading audiobooks. I find it easier to emotionally connect to the narrative that way. I always carry a sketchbook with me so if I hear a phrase or a sentence I write down then put it on my wall as a post it. It makes my studio look like it belongs in a Nordic Noir but it works for me. Cinematography is another big influence on my work. I often watch films on my laptop and screenshot images I find inspiring. This can help solidify ideas when image making.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
This question is always a toughie for me. I look to different people for different things. My main artistic inspirations at the moment are Hernan Bass, Adam Lee, Peter Doig, Michael Armitage and Jules de Balincourt.
What is the art scene like in South London?
The art scene in South London is at an all-time high. Independent galleries seem to be popping up all the time. Southwark council seems to be supporting artistic enterprises with Peckham having the most dramatic transformation in my opinion. I think it’s an exciting time to be an artist in South London.
What do you think about the current government's stance on the importance of arts?
This is a really broad topic that I’m sure someone who is more politically involved could answer more succinctly. I know that there have been lots of cuts in creative subjects across secondary schools in the UK due to funding pressures and the government's focus on core academic subject. These cuts have fundamentally prevented children from lower income families to gain access to a full education, outlined in a recent BBC survey. Inevitably this fuels the age-old problem that the arts are only for the most affluent. Recently the government declared that they are jointly investing £150 million into creative industries as part of the Creative Industries Sector Deal. This is supposed to develop the next generation of creatives with career programs and ‘consolidate the country’s position as a global creative powerhouse’. I think that the government’s position has been and will probably continue to be elitist. I think that limiting the creative prospects of less economically fortunate children will not consolidate the position of the country as a creative ‘powerhouse’.
Whats your favourite gallery in South London?
I think my favourite is Studio Voltaire in Clapham. It’s about fifteen minutes from my studio and the variation in exhibitions is great to see. Brocket in Kennington is also close and shows some interesting works.
See more of Jake's work on his Instagram.
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