About

Luke Elwes

Luke Elwes (b.1961) currently lives and works in London. His early years were spent in Iran, where the light and space of the desert were a formative influence. He studied at Bristol University (BA History) and Camberwell School of Art between 1979 and 1985, and at Birkbeck, London University (MA Art History & Theory, 2007). 

While working at Christies he began to travel and write, and after meeting Bruce Chatwin in 1987 he went to the central Australian desert to explore the landscape and its use in aboriginal storytelling and artforms. Since then he has continued to travel extensively, discovering and revisiting remote locations in India, Asia and North Africa. In 1998 he was artist in residence on an expedition to Mount Kailash, a holy mountain in western Tibet. Since 2000 he has worked for extensive periods on an island off the East Coast of the UK. In 2013 he was awarded a grant to study at the Vermont Studio Center and in 2015 he was resident artist at the Albers Foundation (USA). 

Since 1990 his work has been exhibited in the following galleries: Adam Gallery (London), Broadbent (London), Art First Contemporary (London), Browse & Darby (London), Art First (New York), Galerie Vieille du Temple (Paris), Galerie Marceau Bastille (Paris), Grand Palais (Paris), Palazzo Lanfranchi (Pisa), Galleria Ceribelli (Milan & Bergamo). He has participated in shows at the following UK institutions: Royal Academy London, Christies London, Barbican Gallery London, National Trust, Estorick Collection London, Kettles Yard Cambridge, Southampton Art Gallery, Bury Art Gallery Manchester, Young Gallery Salisbury, Minories Colchester.  He also writes about contemporary art for journals including Modern Painters, Royal Academy Magazine, Galleries Magazine, Abstract Critical and other digital platforms. In 2011 he was invited to give an ‘Artist’s Eye’ talk at the National Gallery.

The idea of a journey is central to his painting, both its physical and temporal unfolding and its recollection in memory. The surfaces recall maps, tracing the marks of history and the fragile signs of belief, and moving between what is revealed and concealed of these often empty and distant terrains. Rooted in the particular, the images also probe an interior space. The art critic Andrew Lambirth has written about them: ‘The map is nearly erased, a distressed palimpsest; it’s difficult to decipher a single clear meaning. The viewer must, like a scryer, read the signs and interpret accordingly’. More recently the writer Robert Macfarlane has described how ‘they hover between encryption and archetype, enigma and fabulous openness’.

Elwes’s territory is both familiar and strange, distant and yet somehow known. As the French philosopher-poet Gaston Bachelard wrote in Poetics of Space, “We cover the universe with drawings we have lived.” The thinly layered surfaces echo patterns of weather and erosion; marks are made then washed away or erased. Ancient pathways across plains, deserts or fields are suggested to create, as Elwes has said, “spaces which are mapped by belief rather than measured by science”. These pathways are markers in the emptiness of the canvas, making sense of the space as they also attempt to make sense of the world.

(Sue Hubbard, The Independent 2004)

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Solo Exhibitions

  • 2017 – Floating world | Adam Gallery, London & Bath
  • 2016 – Floating world | National Trust, Flatford, Suffolk
  • 2015 – Albers Foundation series | Broadbent Gallery, London
  • 2015 – Reflection | Campden Gallery (UK)
  • 2014 – Water Diaries | The Minories, Colchester (UK)
  • 2014 – Writing on water | Adam Gallery, London & Bath
  • 2013 – Luke Elwes 2000 – 2013 | Young Gallery, Salisbury
  • 2012 – Constellation | Adam Gallery, London & Bath
  • 2012 – Celestial Confetti | North House Gallery, Essex
  • 2011 – Silent Kingdom | Adam Gallery, London & Bath
  • 2009 – Secret Water | Broadbent Gallery, London
  • 2009 – Peintures Recente | Galerie Marceau Bastille, Paris
  • 2007 – Refugia | Art First Contemporary, London
  • 2007 – Amici Pittori | Galleria Ceribelli, Bergamo, Italy
  • 2005 – Flowing Ground | Broadbent Gallery, London
  • 2004 – Compass | Art First Contemporary, London
  • 2002 – Luke Elwes | Art First Contemporary, New York
  • 2002 – The Osea series | Art First Contemporary, London
  • 2000 – Sanctuary | Art First Contemporary, London
  • 1998 – Pilgrim | Art First Contemporary, London
  • 1995 – Island | Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
  • 1993 – Storyline | Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
  • 1993 – Luke Elwes | Galerie Vieille du Temple, Paris
  • 1991 – Landcross | Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
  • 1990 – Bungle Bungle | Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London

Group Exhibitions

  • 2018 – Currents | Sladers Yard Gallery, Dorset UK
  • 2017 – Amici Pittori Di Londra | Galleria Ceribelli, Italy
  • 2016 – Radiance 2 | Sladers Yard Gallery, Dorset UK (with Emma Stibborn, Alex Lowery & Daisy Cook)
  • 2016 – Segni di Londra | Museo della Grafica, Palazzo Lanfranchi | Pisa, Italy
  • 2015 – Segni di Londra | Fondazione Bottari Lattes, Monforte d’Alba | Italy
  • 2015 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (gallery curated by Tess Jaray), London
  • 2015 – Vital signs: 12 London Artists | Clifford Chance, London & Galleria Ceribelli, Italy
  • 2014 – Radiance 1 | Sladers Yard Gallery, Dorset UK
  • 2012 – Cross Country | Broadbent Gallery, London (with Andrew Vass & Kate Palmer)
  • 2012 – Threadneedle Prize for Painting, London
  • 2011 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
  • 2010 – Another Country | Estorick Collection, London
  • 2010 – Critics Choice | Browse & Darby, London
  • 2009 – L'Isle Joyeuse | Art First & Falle Fine Art, Jersey
  • 2009 – Hester Gallery | Leeds (with Maurice Cockrill, Stephen Chambers, Lino Mannocci, Chris Woods)
  • 2008 – Genius Loci | Galleria Ceribelli, Italy (with Arturo Di Stefano, Glenys Johnson, Alex Lowery, Lino Mannocci)
  • 2007 – Mapping | Bury Art Gallery, Manchester
  • 2007 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
  • 2006 – Translations | National Gallery & Art First, London
  • 2005 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
  • 2004 – Elements | Art First | London & Edinburgh
  • 2004 – Slow Art | Broadbent Gallery, London
  • 2003 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
  • 2003 – Look Stranger! | Art First Contemporary, London (with Bridget Macdonald & Alex Lowery)
  • 2002 – Waters Edge | Art First Contemporary, London (with Anthony Whishaw & Lino Mannocci)
  • 2000 – Five British Artists | Galerie Vieille du Temple and Carrousel de Louvre | Paris
  • 1999 – Hunting Group Art Prize | London & Bath
  • 1998 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
  • 1997 – ROSL 14th Open | London & Edinburgh
  • 1996 – Endangered Spaces | Christies, London (curated by Nicholas Usherwood for CPRE)
  • 1996 – Bayer Earth Art Prize (Highly commended), London
  • 1995 – Centenary: National Trust | Christies, London
  • 1995 – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (invited), London
  • 1994 – New British Art | Benjamin Rhodes, London
  • 1994 – Sanctuary | Chelsea & Westminster Hospital (with Mali Morris, Shirazeh Houshiary, Maggi Hambling)
  • 1993 – The Spectator Prize | London & Edinburgh
  • 1992 – London Painters | Galerie Vieille du Temple | Paris
  • 1992 – Spring | Barbican Gallery, London
  • 1991 – Il Sud del Mondo | Marsala, Sicily & Milan, Italy
  • 1991 – Fresh Horizons | William Jackson Gallery, London
  • 1991 – Earthscape | Hastings & Southampton City Art Gallery
  • 1991 – Songlines | Barbican Gallery, London
  • 1990 – The Broad Horizon | Agnews Gallery, London
  • 1988 – Salon de la Jeune Peinture | Grand Palais, Paris
  • 1988 – Contemporary Art Society | Smiths Gallery, London
  • 1988 – Young British Artists | Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh
  • 1987 – Salon de la Jeune Peinture | Grand Palais | Paris
  • 1984 – The Spirit of London | Royal Festival Hall | London

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