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Damian Elwes, 1960 | Conceptual painter

Damian Elwes has painted many of the major studios of the twentieth century including those of Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí.
Damian Elwes lives and works in Santa Monica, California.

Giacometti's Studio

His paintings explore themes such as the cycle of life, creativity and the connections between all living things.
His artwork can be monumental and three-dimensional, such as a painting in which visitors walk from room to room on the ground floor of the "Villa La Californie" (2006), to witness the extent of Picasso's creativity in April 1956 or an immense landscape painting on the ground, "Amazon" (1999), on which visitors can walk above the flowering plants of a cloud forest and search for the source of the river.
Elwes was born in London into a family of artists.

Chagall's Studio - Vence, 1945

His grandfather and father were portrait painters. Both died when Damian was fifteen and left him easels and brushes.
His ability in Mathematics helped him gain a place at Harvard University.
At graduation, his play writing professor gave him a palette knife that had once belonged to Henri Matisse.

Salvador Dali's Studio - Cadaques, 1973

He went to Paris where, for two years, he made paintings of the studios of contemporary artists as a way to learn from them.
In the 1980s, Elwes lived in New York, where he was an early exponent of graffiti.
In 1984 some of his first paintings were chosen by the eminent London art dealer Robert Fraser to be included in a graffiti exhibition with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.

Cezanne's Studio, Aix-en-Provence, 1904

His interest in ancient and contemporary methods of art making led him to spend time in Italy and Morocco.
From 1992-2000, he lived, with his wife, in southern Colombia in a house and studio that he built overlooking a rain forest.
There he created four "dream-sites", paintings so large that viewers can walk around inside them.

Bonnard's Dining Room - Le Cannet, 1943

A floor painting, "Fallen Tree" (1997) describes the cycle of life in one of the last surviving forests of mahogany.
In a clearing in the forest, one old tree has fallen to the ground and is decaying.
New saplings can be seen growing from the dead tree.

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1892

This same cycle exists in painting and in all forms of innovation.
So, while this work might be seen as a spur for conscience, it also contains an indication of Elwes' confidence in the power and continuity of creativity.
In London, 2010, Damian Elwes exhibited an even larger floor painting about the origin of life.

That artwork depicts a primary source of the Amazon River which exists at the summit of a Colombian volcano called Puracé.
The painting was placed under plexiglass in the gallery and visitors could walk all over it.
For the surrounding walls, Elwes created contemporary cave paintings of a woman asleep in that exotic ecosystem.

Cezanne's Studio - Aix-en-Provence, 1902

A documentary, 'Inside Picasso's Studio' (2006) follows Elwes as he creates a vast painting describing the various studios on ground floor of Picasso's "Villa La Californie", as they were in April 1956.
The painting wraps around several walls and viewers are able to walk from room to room while examining hundreds of Picasso's artworks in progress.

Gauguin's Studio - Marquesas, 1902

Curator Fred Hoffman wrote: "While we, the viewer, are immediately intrigued and invited to partake of these historical moments, what actually sustains, even heightens our interest, is Damian Elwes' ability to turn documentation and historical record into compelling pictorial visions requiring repeated viewing and constant deciphering.
Elwes' concern for historical accuracy, and his subsequent investigative process enable his fully realized paintings to have a freshness and immediacy which none of the source material contains nor conveys.

It is not, therefore, the fact that he has painted Picasso’s studio that makes Elwes' work of interest. Rather, it is his ability to use the historical source material about Picasso to achieve some immediacy for his own concerns as a painter.
In the end, it is the expressive quality of these works that we feel drawn to".

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1895

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti,1896

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1896

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1896

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1897

Gauguin's Studio - Tahiti, 1899

Gauguin's Studio, 1894

Monet's Studio - Giverny, 1902

Matisse's Balcony - Hotel Regina, Nice 1950

Picasso's Studio -Paris, 1946

Picasso's Studio - Vauvenargues, 1960

Villa Californie - Picasso's Studio, 2011