Louis Appleby graduated from Wimbledon College of Art in 2014, selling out his degree show at the private view. He is the recipient of a coveted CASS special award, in this year’s National Open Art competition, for his painting ‘Beasts of England’ which will be on show at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, as part of the winner’s exhibition until December 13. Jamie Holman finds out what’s up next for this rising star.
“My paintings suggest human presence in a banal, post-apocalyptic way”, says Louis Appleby, when asked to describe his work. “It’s an oscillation between human activity and the dry, ‘interior design’ quality of the paintings. This creates an interesting dialogue between the subject matter, the way the paint has been handled and the indication of biological/human intervention in the painting.”
Appleby makes small paintings on board, embracing the intimacy achieved through working on this scale to engage the viewer in the detail. It is also a means to allow him to continue and develop his work apace, as much of what he has exhibited has been snapped up by collectors or is in shows. He chose to leave London after graduating and return to his native Lancaster, where he balances a part-time job in a local gallery with working in his studio. We agree that renting a good studio and having time to work is becoming almost impossible in London’s overcrowded, overpriced daily battle to survive. “I can be in London in just over two hours on the train – it’s cheaper to live outside and just commute in when I need to”, he confirms. “Some days it’s quicker to take the Pendolino to Euston from Lancaster than it is to set off from Wimbledon. If I’d stayed in London, I’d have been working every hour to survive and wouldn’t be making the work I want to produce. I’m working in a gallery and getting paid, rather than interviewing to intern somewhere, hoping someone will ask to see my paintings on my phone.”
Those paintings are vivid enough to make an impression on any device, nonetheless. Their subject matter is a mix of teenage detritus and adolescent paraphernalia: video games, televisions, laptops, toy guns, Coke cans and McDonald’s wrappers, which sit uneasily alongside lone pot plants, solitary Anglepoise lamps or school science project relics. The titles are the first clue that there’s more going on than appears on the surface, creating a tension between science and entertainment that results in a passive apathy. ‘Beasts of England’, for example, is a nod to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In it, a TV depicts jets dropping bombs on foreign soil, while the oil that is coveted from the lands being attacked powers the lamp on the plinth and the car waiting outside in the drive. ‘Planet of the Apps’, meanwhile, proposes a space filled with a range of information sources. There is football on the television, a mass grave on the laptop and pictures of the gym on the wall. They each convey the same message: we consume, we participate, we observe.
As we finish our meeting, Louis offers an indication of the future hinting at new paintings and experiments with a 3D printer. This, he tells me, is what the “freedom” of leaving London has given him: space and time to work it all out.
National Open Art Competition: The Winners is at Pallant House Gallery from 1 – 13 December, 2015