Talking fires, deforestation and laziness with Jake Grewal

"I can’t pinpoint a time where I decided to be an artist, because in a way I’ve always been one. There was never really another option."

​- Jake Grewal

Entering the atmospheric, mystical world of Jake Grewal. A 23 year-old artist based in London. We asked Jake a few questions about his work...

When did you know you were an artist? And what was it about the world of creating that enticed and captivated you? I’ve always had an overactive imagination. That must have something to do with it. I think it was the creation of a world that was completely my own, somewhere that didn't have to adhere to any specific rules. Somewhere outside of space and time. I continuously challenged myself to visualise fictitious scenes and I still do this occasionally. I can’t pinpoint a time where I decided to be an artist, because in a way I’ve always been one. There was never really another option.

Your work is incredibly dreamy, enchanting and vibrant. How do you achieve this look and what is the inspiration behind the aesthetic? Thank you, it’s fantastic to know that people get what you try to achieve within a painting. I draw influence from classical landscape paintings and reinterpret themes and devices used within them for the modern day. The dramatic works of Turner and John Martin were definitely key influences when shaping my own visual language. I use an artificial colour palette to introduce an element of the man-made within a natural environment. I edit my own photographs to create source imagery for paintings and use these images to draw out photographic ‘tropes’. I combine this with the use of a projector to create specific patterns to describe something natural. I enjoy the irony of using man made tools to describe something natural. I think this juxtaposition is what differs my landscape paintings from others.

Landscapes play a central role in your work. Is there a setting or environment that draws you in particular? They do. The history of landscape painting has been a continuous theme within my work for the past five years, specifically the development of the relationship between man and the natural. Currently I’m drawn to the setting of a tropical jungle environment influenced by a trip I made to Brunei about a year ago. My preconceptions of what the jungle would be like were challenged when I observed deforestation and human caused fires. This human caused destruction paired with closely monitored and controlled sections led me to the conclusion that nothing is truly natural. One of my favourite quotes is from Robert Smithson, “Nature is simply another eighteenth and nineteenth century fiction."

The use of photography and editing is also recurrent throughout much of your art. When did you first adopt this creative process and how did this method enter your life? I’ve darted between sketch source material and photographic source material as my practice has developed. I settled on it about a year ago. I had struggled with legitimising working from a photograph, as I couldn’t see a point in recreating a photograph as a painting. This is why I now use it as an aid rather than a direct representation of what I want to produce. When working from a photograph there is a danger to settle and withdraw from risk taking and experimentation, this something I constantly battle with reminding myself to experiment.

In the past you have said, if you were not a painter, you would be a film-maker. Do you see yourself adopting film as a medium in the future? And have you got any film recommendations for us? Completely. I’ve been toying with the idea of filmmaking for a very long time now. It’s something I had the privilege to experiment within my foundation year and have craved ever since. The joy of being a practising artist is that you can look back at the years you’ve spent testing different mediums and concepts and select the parts that you enjoyed and want to continue with. I really recommend anything by Andrea Arnold, Mike Leigh, Tom Ford and Pedro Almodovar. I can watch these directors films over and over without ever getting bored.

Your biggest influences in your life and art? My mother is a very big influence on me. Especially when it comes to work ethic and drive. She’s the kind of woman who doesn’t take no as an answer and when challenged with bullshit gives love…up to a point. She’s an incredibly resilient lady who creates her own opportunities and believes that what you put out into the world will come back to you. I try and live my life that way. I’m a bit of a way off, but hopefully I’ll get there. A few key artist influences for me are Adam Lee, Carol Rhodes, George Shaw, Richard Diebenkorn, John Mcallister, Hannah Brown, Mamma Anderson, Trove Janesson and Michael Raedecker. Finally, your aspirations as a human/artist? I’d love to make a short film, have my first solo show and create a graphic novel. I realise this is a lot but I can’t help myself. If I don’t have goals, I become a lethargic, lazy, mess. At the moment I am focusing on pushing my painting practice and technical ability. I’m trying to take greater risks and focusing on painting for myself. This is to create a body of work that I can be proud of. I think my aspiration as a human is to be as open and generous as I can be.

You can enjoy more of Jake's work on his website: