Alej ez tells us about his life, art and newly renovated home!

Hi Alej – You’ve taken part in the Artists Open Houses for many years, but we’re really excited that this year, for the first time, you’ve decided to invite visitors to your own home. Would you like to tells us what led you to that decision?
I am an architect. In early 2020 following my own design I renovated my flat. I moved in for the first time last December, it was only natural to participate in Artists Open Houses Festival here in Brighton.

For a couple of years I used to rent my apartment for short stays as ‘alej ez artist residence’. The Independent in June 2021 included it as one of the top ten stays in Brighton in an article titled ‘Brighton for all tastes and budgets’, which described my apartment as ‘staying in a part of Brighton’s Regency  history – plus there’s the double-height ceilings and sash windows for added opulence. A smartly designed one-bed flat on the square with  a compact kitchen and shower room, and is decorated with art by the owner that’s available to buy’.

Through the Arch of the Brighton Bandstand Towards the Remains of the West Pier, Orient Nights

In what ways do you think showing work in your own home will be different from showing in a gallery or other people’s Open Houses?
I am doubly excited to talk architecture and show my home, which is now also full up with lots of objects that influence my work: Staffordshire figure ceramics, art by Erte and Jean Cocteau, lots of antique 19th century books on art and poetry, Marcel Brewer modernist chairs and a lovely Ercol armchair that I have upholstered with my own fabric design. It is a tiny space but chokablok with personal paraphernalia.

Glyndebourne Summer Night Pheasants – ink drawing

Can you tell us about the new work that you will be exhibiting?
I have put together a new series of prints that is rather eclectic. In some of them I celebrate 19th century illustrations of wildlife, especially birds. You can often see design where architecture, natural landscape and ornithology are considered as one. Other new prints look at the beauty of the UK natural and man-made landscape.

I started this collection early this summer, during my visit to friends Scarlett Rebecca, an artist and educator based in North Wales and partner Jake Spicer, author of ‘How To Draw: Sketch and draw anything, anywhere with this inspiring and practical handbook’ and many other books. They run ‘Mawddach Art Residency’, it offers space for thought, reflection and creation. Immersed in their creative environment, I started creating this eclectic collection of new prints. It is somehow a conglomerate of ideas I have noted through years that finally found their initial expression during my visit. It expresses interests in subjects from environmental conservation to spirituality and astrology. When very different subjects run parallel in your mind, there is a rubbing edge where connections are forged, and there through my idiosyncratic curiosity I find there is scope for new creations.

Swifts over Glyndebourne and Sussex Weald

In reference with my ornithological prints, In January 2021, I found in a second-hand bookshop the second volume of a lavish 1966 publication that reproduced the famous original watercolour paintings by John James Audubon for ‘Birds of America’. With a curious mind I realised that often one of his images would take years to create and various artists would be involved. Often James would create the main image and other artists would do the plants and another would add the landscape. Initially when you look at them you instantly think erroneously that it was a design conceived in one, but no. With this in mind I have created a collection of new prints that follow this system and create a scene that collages a landscape with a habitat with its characteristic plants and birds. The results are prints that mimic a theatre stage design where each subject is depicted in its best light.

Glyndebourne Harvest Moon Pheasants

The images are eclectic, but my style, hopefully, binds them together. I love the use of ink. My practice involves first drawing in ink monochrome drawings on A3 sheets of specialised marker paper with calligraphic brushes, fine-line ink pens, sponges, sandpaper and other materials. I scan these to form the main line work and patterns in the final print. The second step is the addition of colour digitally, this is often a longer phase, rather complex mainly because it is very flexible, dynamic and powerful. Towards the end of this long process, the design clicks in my brain, touches my soul with emotion, my job is done.

Brunswick Square Sparrows

 You are originally from Spain; can you tell us how moving to Brighton, and Sussex more generally, has influenced your work?
I find that Inspiration comes from two sources of experience. Direct experience of the natural world, I love my walks in the South Downs, the hikes up and down the coastal chalk cliffs, the leisurely seafront promenades of our towns. These places featured prominently in my work.

Occasionally the same reference co-exists in two places: in Seville, the town where I grew up and in Brighton, where I currently live for more than ten years. This is the case for the Music Bandstand in Brighton. The extraordinary design with its lobular arches and fluted capitals with crossed natural leaves has been compared to the Alcazar in Seville or the Alhambra in Granada. Since I was born in Granada and lived in Seville, the vision of the Bandstand brings a home away from home.

Secondly, I find that inspiration flourishes from direct experience to exposure of the work of other artists. There is so much to enjoy and learn from the work of Spanish artists such as Goya or Picasso and English artists, from Samuel Palmer to David Hockney, Ravilious, Ben Nicholson, Eric Slater, Ivon Hitchens, and many more.

Durdle Door Dorset, Scarlett Reverie

What are most looking forward to in opening your own home?
I love meeting people, I think I am rather sociable. Open House is most of the time a happy occasion, people who come through your door are interested in art; Artists Open House booklet shows and describes what you do, so hopefully they will be on a similar wavelength.

Feedback is also crucial, time to take notes and see what works and has interest. Rarely does an artist have so much exposure to criticisms. Great time to test new work. How often you hear an artist is wonderful, then a new body of work comes along that proves to be maybe, not so interesting. I am always innovating, to get things right you need to get many wrongs too.

The Lark Ascending over Lewes 

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I think I said enough. Please come to my artist residence and check it out yourself!

Love life, love art!

Visit Alej ez at:
Alej ez Artist Residence
Flat 5, 16 Brunswick Square, Brighton