Neil Douglas is a young, yet experienced, British artist with an impressive list of exhibitions under his belt. He is known for his skilfully rendered, mixed-media representations of urban landscapes, full of the densely charged atmosphere of the modern city.
The artist has stated that he wishes to move away from ‘photo-realism’ and bring some other qualities into play. His new pieces achieve this without eschewing the intensity of observation and realisation he so values. These pictures reassemble motifs and manipulate new images to make work that is both thought provoking and visually seductive. The images of blossoms are particularly affecting in their associations. They retain the aesthetic appeal of their intrinsic beauty as “flower paintings,” while at the same time reference the council planting schemes of urban deprivation. They exist in a binary world of brutality and delicacy, where flowers unexpectedly erupt from concrete.
Neil Douglas’s pictures operate in a romantic manner—the emblematic compositions evoke memories of the cycle of life, of birth, growth, and decay. Their romance lies in an idea of redemption, that something effervescent can appear out of something base and unyielding: the urban landscape, the ring-road, the “precinct,” the “estate.” His images of a butterfly sunning itself on a wall or blossom, chromatically exuberant in a riot of sunlit colour, speak about possibilities and desires lurking beneath the prosaic surface of the everyday.
What we are always made aware of when looking at these pieces is their duality: soft and hard, brutal and delicate, fragile and massive. What will win out and what will remain?
What do you do, and how can I find it?
I’m a professional artist based in London. I try to paint beauty within the chaos. I am currently working on a new series of paintings depicting people in prayer. My paintings can be seen through the Albemarle Gallery, London.
How did you get started?
I was the kid at school who was always drawing in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper, often to the annoyance of the teachers trying to do their job. I have never been academically gifted but painting was something I felt confident in, and it fortunately opened doors to further education, art college, etc.
What is the coolest story you have about doing what you do?
All of it is cool. Growing up, art was something I loved but was also something that was very much at odds with everything around me in my neighborhood. Painting has brought amazing people into my life, provided me with a way of earning a living, and, coolest of all, laid the path that led me to finding faith.
Who or what is the biggest inspiration for your art?
God guides the work in the studio. It’s a huge comfort to be able to know that he is in charge of this. Inspiration can always be found in the wonderful history of art. Plenty of other artists have explored the same questions I ask.
If you could give someone advice for doing what you do, what would it be?
Stay true to yourself, don’t follow trends. Give yourself time to let your own style develop.