AOH Artist Alej ez tells us about his Brighton and Hove Illustrated Alphabet
Hi Alej, we’re delighted you are exhibiting in the Artists Open Houses Festival again his year. Which Open House can we see your work in?
I will be at 92 Montpelier Road. The owner of the house is Risza Lopes da Cruz. Her house is stunning and for the Artists Open Houses it is transformed into a wonderful contemporary gallery which is perfect for showcasing artwork, she also creates the most beautiful jewellery.
We love your architectural prints, but what else will you be showing this year?
I have created a number of new panoramic prints this year: A triptych of ‘Modernist buildings by the Sea: Embassy Court, Saltdean Lido and the De la Warr Pavilion’. I have also created a panoramic print of Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. My most recent piece is however very different, I call my declaration of love for the City of Brighton and Hove. It is a new print that has taken the shape of an illustrated alphabet. An A to Z of Brighton and Hove.
How did the Illustrated Alphabet project come about?
Quite complex. There are a few ideas thrown together. First was my interest to develop some projects for new prints that for some time I had in mind but somehow did not fit with my body of work. Then comes the inspiration after visiting a few art exhibitions, specially the Barnett Freedman exhibition at Pallant House Gallery where I learnt about his work as an outstanding artist and graphic designer. Also mixed in the pot of ideas is my interest to draw the human figure. Most people know me for my architectural prints but I also run a life drawing class, unfortunately this has stopped this year. All this said and as an afterthought I realised that a strong reason to create this alphabet was to counterbalance the sadness I felt during the Covid crisis at witnessing in our city many art venues being closed and festivals cancelled. It is heartbreaking, I wanted to go back to them in an expression of art to celebrate their vibrancy with a message of hope.
How did you select the subject for each letter?
What started as a happy go lucky project proved to be very tricky. The final design has been a collective endeavour. I consulted fellow artists, friends and especially my partner Simon for their personal views and ideas; I had to balance them and the hardest part was to decide what to leave out. While the Alphabet was being created I realised that it constitutes a graphic record of our times in Brighton and Hove with connotations from the past, the present and possibly what we are leaving as our legacy for the future. Each letter of the alphabet creates a scene with stories that unfolds. Every illustrated letter tells a narrative about things close to all of us such as companionship, history, dance, freedom, walks, theatre, dance, nature, the seasons, travel, joy, the weather, music and more. You can see this for my design for the letter ‘O’ that stands for Artists Open Houses.My motto is ‘Life is art and lives at home!’ I have participated in so many occasions at different houses. I have ended up with a big community of friend artists, it is remarkable, meaningful, fulfilling and makes me very happy. In my ‘Brighton and Hove Alphabet’ there is depth of meaning and at the same time a fun and carefree feel.
What other artists have inspired you?
Where do we start here? My past holidays can be defined as a succession of visits to museums and art exhibitions around Europe. Often the works of artists pop out in my mind for inspiration to my pieces. My preference though is for Uk arts such as Edward Bawden chiaroscuro contrasting linocuts; John Nash’s freedom of expression and individuality of his pieces, Edward Ardizone’s expressive drawings; the already above mentioned Barnett Freedman with his quality of graphic design and capacity to convey humanity. Not to leave out William Blake too, you can find me staring for hours at his drawings in Petworth House, then more hours at the Towner in Eastbourne looking at Eric Ravilious; then hours at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester looking at Peter Blake’s pop art. The list goes on and on.
What else will you be exhibiting in your Open House exhibition?
You will also be able to see a very powerful piece that resonates with our current times. I have created a panoramic view of Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. Early this year Prospect Cottage was saved for future generations by a crowdfunding effort by Artfund UK. Prospect Cottage owner Derek Jarman was an iconic figure in British culture.This year I have read some of his books and followed his steps. Even in July I passed the squoted house in North London where the Sisters of Perpetual indulgence lived, he was canonised by them. When I visited the grounds of Prospect Cottage this summer I felt very moved. His garden was an experiment of life and art, of creation and survival where native and foreign plants grow together, possibly mimicking the creative society he often surrounded himself with. There is an excellent exhibition about him at the Garden Museum in London. Go visit!
I have also created this year a triptych of three panoramic prints that I call ‘British Modernist Buildings by the Sea: Embassy Court, Saltdean Lido and the De la Warr Pavilion’ These wonderful buildings are often portrayed in art, my different approach is to show them in relation with their settings, the sea with the promenading, the chalk cliffs.
My dragons are also back, in another triptych that I call Life: ‘Life Joy’, ‘Life Enchantment’ and ‘Life Delight’. Dragons are the calligraphic art side of me. I just love them.
See the Brighton and Hove Illustrated Alphabet‘s related stories behind the letters – And buy your own print!
Towner in Eastbourne looking at Ravilious
specially the Barnett Freedman exhibition at Pallant House Gallery
I have created a panoramic view of Prospect Cottage in Dungeness.
There is an excellent exhibition about him at the Garden Museum in London. Go visit!
Un saludo cordial