Continuing our How Are U series – which has thus far featured Joshua Hagler, Charming Baker, Jacky Tsai and Oh de Laval – we check in with the wonderfully loquacious Damian Elwes, to see how he is faring in the Los Angeles Lockdown.
How are you? Are you self isolating or just social distancing?
We have been isolating since March 12th . Although I know that their education has been disrupted, it’s nice to have our children back from college for this unexpected break. We have about two months of food…cupboard food that we can cook without having to get fresh vegetables. I love to cook because that’s my way of contributing to what’s going on over in the house. Otherwise, I’m in the studio the whole time. Self-isolation is what painters do anyway. So, this is just more of the same for me. Except, of course, it isn’t. It’s not the same because this is a terrible predicament for everyone, and unfortunately, it was fairly predictable that it would happen at some point. We are just doing the best that we can to stay positive. I’m certainly on the phone a lot more than usual with my mum and my sister in England and my friends.
So has you practice been affected much? Has it changed in any way?
My son comes into the studio once a day to give us a workout. He’s very much into physical fitness, so, since I don’t have sports at this time, it’s a good thing to do with him. Apart from that, how is it affecting my practice? I’m actually getting more work done than usual. I would say that the virus is making us all think more about our mortality. Since I paint artists’ studios, I want to paint the studios of artists that won’t be with us forever. Obviously, none of us will be here forever; however, for example, Alex Katz is in his 90’s, and Rose Wylie is in her 80’s. I really want to paint their studios now so that, hopefully, they will have the chance to see them.
Do you have any advice for younger less established painters at this difficult time?
My advice to younger painters is to make the paintings that you really want to leave in this world. One should always be thinking about that: to make work that is really important to you, to make paintings about things that you care about. I think that we are very lucky to be artists right now. Our work is not dependent on offices or structures. We can just do what we do. I don’t assume art can change the world, but I believe we have a responsibility to share good ideas. Artists can help make the world a better place.
As far as offering some practical advice to younger artists, I can only speak from my own experience. When times were difficult for me, when it was hard to come up with the rent and money for bills, I moved to Colombia. I lived in the Amazon region, a place that was very inexpensive. I could live for about $10,000 per year and return annually to sell my paintings in London, New York or Los Angeles. I stayed for eight years painting the rain forest. without being weighed down by the financial concerns of a big city. I learned from nature and had freedom to make large installations about the forest and the world which I would never have been able to do in my small studio in London.
Scroll down to view some of Damian’s avaliable works
Rose Wylie’s Studio, 2019, Gouache on board, 38 x 66 cm
Portrait of Keith Haring, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 168 x 168 cm