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artist in focus: patrick morales-lee

Christopher King at Katherine Richards Art Gallery

Morales-Lee’s work deals with the idea of identity and belonging. From being fostered at the age of three, Patrick was constantly aware of his surroundings and the need to fit in growing up. He now recognises those feelings as universal and his work looks to explore this aspect of the human condition

He was taught by the painter John Virtue and has exhibited alongside many notable artists including Anthony Gormley, Jeremy Deller, Gavin Turk, Sarah Maple and Anthony Lister. He won the Galerie Heimat & NG Art Creative Residency Art Prize 2021 and appeared on Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year in 2020. Patrick’s work will be shown in The Sequested Prize exhibition of 2022 and has been shortlisted for the Derwent Art Prize

How do you describe your work?

It’s figurative drawing that explores the themes of belonging, identity and belief - which all stems from being fostered as a child. My work looks to showcase certain scenarios with a soft narrative. These scenarios may be unsettling or odd to some or comforting and familiar to others. Often the figure depicted is within a ceremony, with inspiration taken from the Christian ceremony of Communion. Here, there’s the idea of transformation, taking on something new, whether that’s the belief itself or the action of receiving the body and blood of Christ. I find it fascinating that people will participate physically and mentally in a ceremony to show to themselves and others that they believe they aren’t alone, that they belong to something which gives meaning to their own life

What would you say are your greatest influences?

There are so many from the art world - artists such as Michael Borremans and Njideka Akunyili Crosby are huge inspirations to my work. I'm also into anything to do with the creativity process, so the ‘Get Back’ Beatles documentary last year to me was fascinating. I found it incredible watching them create songs in the studio. Another inspiration I keep returning to is the biography of Steve Martin, as he talks in depth and beautifully about the struggle, the process, the progression of comedy, the ups and downs, and living a very different life. Also, there was a brilliant documentary on the BBC last year about Paula Rego - a wonderful insight into her, her life and her work

Who do you have in mind when you create your work?

I try and keep my head as clear as possible, and try not to overthink. Whilst I have a clear idea of the look and aesthetic of the work, the palette, how the figures stand and interact to each other, I don't actually think why I’m placing the figures this way. I don’t have a clear emotional idea or setting which I aim to hit. It much more subconscious and all about trusting my instinct. It's only after I do the work that I see what it could be about. I want the work to surprise me, to push me as I make it. If I knew at the beginning what I wanted, I don’t think the drawings would work

What makes your art different, special and irresistible?

I do feel my work is different, and in the last few years I’ve really become passionate about drawing as a medium. It’s seen by some as the poor relation to painting, a pre-stage before the final piece in paint. For me, pencil and charcoal on paper really appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities and I love pushing what pencil and charcoal are meant to look like. My newer pieces are a mix of drawing and paint so they kind of sit fighting between being a painting or a drawing

What do people say when they see your collection / portfolio? How does your art make them feel?

I believe art should speak for itself. Whilst the work is about something I wish to communicate, people bring their own views and experience which overlay my initial narrative. I’m not trying to push my thoughts onto people, it’s about trying to connect on an emotional level. For me, it’s similar to the feeling you get when you listen to music; when a song connects with you, it’s not about the lyrics, it’s about the music itself - it can have such an emotional impact within you. For example, the song ‘All I Need’ by Radiohead: it starts to kick in after a couple of minutes and builds and builds into this beautiful noise where, for me, it all just makes sense. The emotional response I get from this song is what I’m striving to create with my drawings

What do you think motivates people to buy your art? How does it appeal to the heart?

Again, it's about creating an emotional response, perhaps a cerebral one too. People want connection with others and I think my work can open up channels where they see some part of themselves within the work. For example - a few years back, during an exhibition linked with the Whitstable Biennial, a women saw one of my drawings in the window and felt a strong emotional pull to it. She walked away but came back three times as she couldn’t stop thinking about the piece. She went into the store and asked the owner about the drawing. I had left a little info sheet about myself and the work; after she read it, she started crying and immediately brought the piece. It turned out she had adopted a little boy herself. My whole history and the emotion of the piece had clearly connected on this shared level

Who responds to your work and why do they connect with what you make?

Other creatives often buy my work – interior designers, photographers and artists, for example - but also other professionals. One series was very popular with surgeons - something about my decisive mark-making, apparently! People interested in Japanese culture and aesthetics tend to appreciate my work. Also people who like the concepts of minimalism and how my work brings a sense of calm and tranquillity. It seems to slow people down and they enjoy looking at the nuances in the paint colour or the variety of marks


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