With Luke Elwes I recognize and in some ways share his manner of working: the desire to contain the sign language behind the magical surfaces he creates. During his many travels Elwes has immersed himself completely in the new realities he perceives and has absorbed to saturation point the dominant aspects, often related intimately to sacred objects or beliefs in their various forms. It is only after his return home that he works through the records he has created to yield a distillation of what he has experienced. His work demonstrates how he resolves these influences in canvases devoid of grandiose gestures but perfectly controlled. They are canvases that seem to have been born divinely inspired, as it were with helmet and armour in place.
There is in England a long tradition of travelling painters who, armed with easel, canvas and brush, scour the world for subjects to paint. This is not Luke Elwes’s way of working. When he travels, Luke involves himself with all his being, seeking the new realities by total immersion in them. It is only afterwards, the voyage over, on the return to London, in the seclusion of his studio, that he embarks on the process of distillation and synthesis. It is as though this displacement of time and space is the necessary filter for recovering the essence of the experiences he has lived through.
Elwes frequently starts a picture by scribbling on the canvas, making signs, as with typescript. These marks are then covered with a thin film of paint which in turn may be removed by dripping on to the new surface thus created a diluting agent such as turpentine. It is difficult to predict the effect on the canvas of these drops and trickles. The danger of losing the image completely is an essential part of the creative process, involving a degree of excitement stimulated by the risk involved in this process. In his newer paintings Elwes achieves thinner surfaces resulting in more complex effects; notwithstanding the inherently random effects of the process the painter is increasingly drawn to these techniques.