The water diaries

Luke Elwes
Luke Elwes
photo: Ella d’Arcy Jones

For over a decade now Luke Elwes has been recording his experience of the natural world on paper, a project that began on Osea Island in the River Blackwater and continues today at Landermere in the Walton Backwaters. The resulting images conjure up a particular space where land and water meet, where the shifting light radiates across the salt marshes and where the tides move back and forth through the delicate maze of creeks and channels. They reveal chance encounters with a myriad of visual stimuli: passing birds, rolling mist, scattered flora, wind blown leaves or drifting shapes, floating on, reflected in, the passing streams.

Each one was made under the open sky on a single day, often at dawn or dusk and sometimes in the rain or late at night, and the prevailing conditions are mirrored in the drawing, in the way it succumbs to a sea breeze, an enveloping mist, or a sudden downpour. Pigment dissolves, runs and dries in unforeseen ways (and with unexpected results) as the paper’s surface becomes rain spattered, mud flecked, or softened by the rising waters. And each time the resulting image belongs as much to the elements as to the artist who began it.

Please click on images below to view larger and as slideshow.

Luke Elwes (born in 1961) studied History at Bristol University, Art History at Birkbeck College, London University, and Painting at Camberwell School of Art. While working at Christies 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 aboriginal storytelling and artforms. Since then he has continued to travel extensively, discovering and revisiting remote locations in India, Asia Minor 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 the East Anglian coast. He shows regularly in London, Paris & Italy and in 2013 was awarded a grant to work at the Vermont Studio Center in the US, where the work for his most recent show in London comes from.