Luke Elwes was born in London (1961) and spent his early years in Iran, where the light and space of the desert were a formative influence. He studied at Camberwell school of Art (UAL) and holds undergraduate and research degrees from Bristol University and Birkbeck, University of London.
Following a spell working at Christie’s 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 indigenous 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).
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 is 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’.
Since 1990 his work has been exhibited in the following galleries: Frestonian Gallery (London), 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), Galleria Ghelfi (Vicenza). 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 has also written 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.