Layla Andrews is an expressionist and abstract portrait artist. Who, at the age of 15, painted a large scale expressionist portrait of Nelson Mandela, which the South African Embassy acquired. Since then, she has had many exhibitions and continues to produce work and commissions for artists, companies and charities worldwide.
Which artists do you draw inspiration from?
I take inspiration from events, ideas, social injustices or political headaches, rather than other artist’s works. My favourite artist has to be Ralph Steadman though; his expressionist and violent brushwork combined with very smart political and social critiques is just wicked- he is a genius.
How important is colour to your work?
Colour and violent, expressive brush strokes are integral to my pieces; I do not create art as a backdrop. For me, a painting is a statement and thereby bold expressionist techniques, and rich colour is imperative in ensuring my work has some form of loud impact.
Does humour change the feel of your pieces?
Arguably, industries like politics and art can be seen as elitist and exclusive, something I have always desperately tried to avoid. Humour is subjective but still universal to some extent, so I feel it enables a works accessibility. I hope it provides people with some intrigue and connection to a piece. I am lucky that I have very humorous mates who provide my work with much inspiration.
What animals are you drawn to and why?
Animals are super important to me generally, so I do often include them in my work. I have worked with animals for conservation in the US for years, so that is an aspect of my life which is always imperative. I recently had an exhibition at the WWF headquarters; if there is an opportunity for me to combine my artistic passion with my love for animals, then I am on that. In the past two years I have created a collection of abstract Crocodiles, the ‘Havana Club’, which were inspired by a trip to Cuba. These have been really popular and might be my favourite body of work.
Is your work ever political?
A vast majority of my work is political. I am managing a history degree as well as an art career, which was a difficult decision for me. I thought it would be impractical to try to accomplish both; but as so many of my pieces are political, the degree helps by fuelling ideas, which in turn make me create some interesting pieces. I think choosing a subject which enables your work depth and understanding can only be a positive addition to your art. We live in a world whereby, the internet has enabled further awareness and accessibility to globalised problems, which is fantastic yet, it can be frustrating not to feel you have a platform to air your views or try to contribute positively. Art has enabled me that platform of expression. It has allowed me to combine my love for political study with my love for creating art.
How does it feel to be selected for Liberty London’s competition?
Being selected as a finalist for Liberty Open Call design talent 2018 has been so great! My work selected was a painting of a lobster smoking a ciggie, which I painted years ago; people seem to get it, which is cool. Liberty is a great shop, so having the opportunity to work for/with them would be dreamy.
Words: Emma Phillips