Lee Ellis is a British multi-media artist based in Bristol. His insatiable desire to create leads him to embrace different artistic mediums, from printmaking to drawing and painting and his bold and expressive style is characterised by the unusual juxtaposition of bright colours and dark subjects.
Ellis’s paintings typically convey a visceral and deep-seated angst within his figures, and his raw, expressive brushstrokes make his style poignant and immediately affecting. In his most recent work however the depth of emotion is tempered by wit and originality. The Imposter Collection is based on a series of often familiar self-portraits by famous artists, revisited and given a new message and identity in Ellis’s compelling contemporary voice.
“I like to use the human face as my subject, but in a way it acts as a vessel for my experimentation”, he says. “The person I’m painting typically becomes irrelevant as I use their features to hold the paint and the work evolves with every layer of colour.”
Painting in a mixture of oils, spray paints and charcoals Ellis is a natural experimenter, fascinated by the effects and versatility of different mediums and the opportunities they offer for uniqueness. He is constantly pushing boundaries and exploring the possibilities of new tools, looking for different ways of moving the paint around the canvas and bringing energy and originality to the process of creation.
Ellis was first drawn to art as a teenager when he saw Wine-Crucifix by Arnulf Rainer at Tate Modern. This extraordinary work, originally created for the Student Chapel of the Catholic University in Graz, Austria, was hung across a window, and the shape of a cross was revealed beneath the many layers of deep red paint only when the light shone through the canvas. The painting is a powerful work at any time, but its living shifting symbolism in response to the light spoke directly to his imagination, as did the work he saw that day by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud; these three artists have had a significant and visible influence on his work ever since.
Ellis graduated from the University of the West of England, where he studied Graphic Design, but soon found his artistic expression was evolving into a love of abstract painting. He developed a distinctive and highly personal style and began to sell his art on the harbour side in Bristol. It was not long before he had attracted attention from local gallery owners and from there his career as a fine artist took off. Since 2007, Ellis has exhibited widely across the UK both in solo and group exhibitions, including Black Rats Projects in Soho and a solo show in Glasgow.
“I’m driven by the urge to experiment and try to paint with everything not designed to be painted with and moving my medium around the canvas in novel ways. I like to work fast and capture as much energy as possible.”