Layla Andrews is a Brighton and London-based artist, activist and writer, known for large-scale dynamic portraits of people and anthropomorphized creatures, most notably, her signature crocodiles.
Since starting out in the art world, her work has caught the eye of Barack Obama and Stephen Fry. Today, we’re delighted to announce her work is now available at Enter Gallery!
In today’s blog, we’re chatting to Andrews to learn more about her style, how she works, and the themes that define her art.
We’re speaking to Andrews fresh from her recent London show, Bastard Gumwood. The exhibition was her second to be inspired by Saint Helena, an island just off the coast of West Africa that is the birthplace of her Grandfather, and therefore an important part of her heritage.
The show was created following Andrews’ first visit to the remote island, where she got to experience her grandfather’s stories first-hand, meet family members and witness the exuberance of the island’s people, nature, food and colours – all elements that feature regularly in her art. Andrews tells us:
“People form the basis of a lot of my art, but family stories, the natural world, and my lifelong love of second hand treasure all inspire and influence my collections.”
Using a striking colour palette of vibrant reds, olives, whites, mustards and peach-pinks, Andrews’ paintings, sculptures and now, since Bastard Gumwood, textiles, are always infused with a sense of narrative.
“Storytelling is thematic within my work. Art isn’t here to serve a select few, it should be inclusive and encourage people from all backgrounds to feel something from it.”
Via unusual still life pairings and portraits, Andrews gives the observer a glimpse into her imagination, into the life of her grandfather, and into St Helena’s love of country and western music.
Andrews has drawn critical acclaim for her portraits of crocodiles enjoying typically human activities. Over the years, Andrews has portrayed her beloved crocs sporting cowboy boots, enjoying cigarette breaks or a game of dominos, and even diving into a plate of spaghetti.
“Crocs have been a big aspect of my painting since I was a teenager. I have always felt there was something quite human about them. They seem complicated; sweet but also wise as though they harbour great knowledge from being around for so long. And of course, they are very good looking.”
“This interest stems from when I was a child; I had a book which depicted a mother crocodile teaching her baby how to eat spaghetti. I loved it. In more recent times, trips to Cuba, Florida and Mexico have definitely contributed to my love for them.”
Andrews’ love of crocs is seen in Havana Club – a series of hand-finished paintings, available at Enter Gallery in five different colourways, which depicts her crocodile holding a bag containing a goldfish. This piece features the first crocodile that Andrews put on canvas back when she was a teenager, and remains her most popular piece.
These crocs are also seen in Florida, another piece available at Enter Gallery now, that is inspired by a trip Andrews took to the US state with her Nan.
With such a distinctive palette and subject matter, we were curious as to Andrews’ artistic beginnings and what inspired her to pick up a brush. She reveals:
“I come from a very resourceful family. My mum and my nan encouraged my sister and me to gather and source materials and things we needed to experiment artistically from second-hand shops and car-boot sales. I think it has been a fundamental element of my identity as an artist - it helped form my style and love for art, antiques, costumes and props. Second-hand shopping made accessing the art world possible for me. I was able to experiment with tools and materials that are not always accessible for working class children. Thank goodness for car-boots!”
Andrews work often involves getting messy, with many of her pieces blended by hand. We asked Andrews about this part of her process and she told us:
“I re-work paintings until they feel right. I often paint with my hands as I find it easier to layer and blend the colours. I also love how the paint sits on board or canvas when hand-blended. I still paint with my hands in sections but brushes feature also.”
Speaking of what she hopes her art makes people feel, Andrews reveals:
“I feel art should be inclusive and try to encourage people from all walks of life to feel something from it or to feel they can engage with it. In more recent times, my work is quite joyful, and light so I hope those emotions feed through. Storytelling runs through all my themes and collections, so whilst the paintings feel personal to me, I hope others can relate in their own way.”
View artworks by Layla Andrews.