Art Connect: Five Questions with Lee Madgwick


Lee Madgwick, Art Connect, Ice Cream Van

Lee Madgwick’s work is immediately recognisable. His hyper-real yet dreamlike visual riddles appear to have been summoned straight from his subconscious. Madgwick’ paintings, though remarkable in their stillness, have an air of the foreboding which makes turning away nothing if not difficult.

As Lee Madgwick says himself, “I hope to achieve a sense of drama in my work [by] presenting a familiar image yet placing it in an intimate and moody setting. A narrative is very important, but intentionally never fully explained. I like to leave it for the viewer to come up with their own interpretation.”

Having studied graphic design at Norwich University College of the Arts, graduating in 2003, Madgwick was awarded the Wyss Foundation Painting Award at the 44th Eastern Open in 2013 and earlier this year was admitted into the Royal Society of British Artists. Read on for our compelling interview with the artist.

 Topiary, 2014

Which artists’ tool do you consider essential? Might it surprise us?

I'm not sure they're tools in the traditional sense of the word, but the fronts of my hands are rather essential as I paint the 'skies' using Winsor & Newton Water Mixable Oils with my palms and fingertips. The paint is squeezed directly from the tubes onto the canvas and the shapes of the clouds are naturally born with the movement of the directions my hands glide. This in turn mixes the colours perfectly and is also, in that respect, the most expressive side of my painting.

 A Murder, 2014

When did you land upon your artistic style? Was it a “eureka” moment?

For many years I drew traditional and architectural pencil, pen and ink drawings. It was only circa 2005 when I started experimenting with various painting techniques and styles.

It was also at this time where I found I could express my storytelling in art form, that and my fascination with abandoned and derelict buildings made for an interesting combination. There is something about that eerie sense of haunting beauty in such buildings and landscapes that I find so inviting. I've always liked the dark and somewhat mysterious fairy tale and post-apocalyptic-esque landscapes depicted in books and films. Therefore the narrative is important in my work, but intentionally never fully explained. I tend to leave it to the viewer to come up with their own interpretation.

More often than not, the subject matter exists only in my head, although I do use many photographs for reference. Ideas are sketched out as soon as they're dreamt up for fear I'll simply forget about them. I travel around the country as often as I can for inspiration and to search out the often overlooked areas in urban and rural settings. In the past two or three years I feel there has been a welcome sense of surreality in my work.

What has been your big break as a professional artist?

I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to exhibit in mixed and solo shows throughout the years as well as being selected for Open Exhibitions. More recently, becoming a member of the Royal Society of British Artists was an exciting turning point in my career.

 Water Tower, 2014

Which artists do you find most inspiring?

There are many artists I admire, from Constable to Magritte to Hopper and also relatively unknown artists like Leonard Squirrell and Walter Dexter. But I am constantly drawn back to the great Northern European artists from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including Casper David Friedrich, Jacob Van Ruisdael and John Crome. Their eye for detail was exceptional but it was the atmosphere they created with their often dark, earthy moody tones that I love the most. Even though the paintings often feature vast skies and glimpses of distant horizons they still feel intimate and yet somehow so full of tension or indeed melancholy.

What is your favourite Winsor & Newton product?

The Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic range is definitely the best on the market. The vibrancy of the colours remain when dry, which is very important. They're also very easy to mix and blend with as much or as little water as you like. One of the biggest plus points is its drying time – with these paints the working time is considerably longer than other acrylics.

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