As a medium, painting has undergone one renaissance after another. From that of the classical variety, to the more recent commercial inclinations of pop-art and hyperrealism. Although techniques may vary, what has never changed is the proverbial artist’s obsession with love - a time-tested subject matter that has taken the fancy of one great artist to the next.
In conversation with Dan Llywelyn Hall, under the bright neon lights of the infamous Lights of Soho, we discover the humble beginnings of one of London’s brightest new artists, his very special portrait commission with The Queen; and finally we talk about his latest exhibition Love Scenes - his own personal idealisation of the elusive concept of Love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where did your interest in art come from?
I'm from the Welsh seaside town made famous by Gavin and Stacey, Barry Island. My interest in art was a slow-burn and came from a default position in myself, that I did not need to coax or decide as a career choice. I had one or two very encouraging school teachers and I blame them! My interest grew, just as one's interest in any subject evolves. Almost on a weekly basis by changing approaches, I was constantly and still am on the lookout to make sure every brush stroke holds its weight.
Your latest collection “Love Scenes” depicts some of the most iconic love scenes of all time. What inspired you to create this series
I've always had an interest in how love and bonds are formed between people. Film, art and literature help us to idealise love and romance and my paintings freeze-frame these; and makes a grab of the transient — so that the rapid process of love can be mused over at its time of consumption.
What has it been like collaborating with Alexa Pearson and the team at Lights of Soho on this exhibition?
They are a vibrant bunch; and the club has an energy that works perfectly with the work. I normally don't like my paintings competing with other art forms as they all work on their own terms, but here they hold their own. The iconographic nature of the paintings punch out and command attention. The club in the four walls that once was a porn shop would have witnessed all sorts of voyeuristic wanderings. The fact that Lights of Soho is now a gallery is part of Soho's heritage — there’s a thin line between love and sex.
Alongside the exhibition, acclaimed British journalist, Rowan Pelling is launching The Armorist - which features selected pieces of your work. What was it like working with Rowan Pelling on this project?
While we are not collaborating on this project in the usual sense, I wanted to pledge support to someone who believes in print; and stoically presses on seeking out the subject of love and sex through all the arts. We're doing several events together at the time of the magazine’s launch.
You are about to embark on a massive collaboration with Amnesty International - with a collection of commissioned portraits. Tell us a little bit about this project and why you have chosen to work with Amnesty International?
All the sitters will be from diverse spectrums of public life. The exhibition will happen next year and is in its formative beginnings. The main ethos is to illuminate Amnesty International’s noble approach to maintaining standards of human rights. It is something that all my sitters would find hard to disagree with. Painting is a good way of putting some unlikely groupings of people in one room.
With a long list of achievements under your belt — being the youngest artist to paint a portrait of the queen in 2013, and also being the first official artist in residence at Cannes in 2015, what is next for Dan Llewelyn Hall?
Starting to read a vast folio society book collection that I inherited from a dear friend.
Finally, in what ways do you think artists like yourself are changing the face of the London art scene?
I'm not sure any artist can state that claim. However, I do feel that things artists (particularly painters) take certain assumptions on their work for granted. I for one feel that London can offer one of the most culturally diverse climates to assess art and its longevity. Painters like me want the world to time-out and let the moment that a painting holds steadily, seep into your senses.
Dan Llewelyn Hall
Words by Hannah Tan