Artist Spotlight & Interview: Julian Brown

February 5, 2021

Saturday 30th January, 2021

Fairground Attraction


Julian Brown

We are delighted to welcome Julian Brown to the Brownsword Hepworth Gallery on Walton Street, in Chelsea, London.

Born in 1974, Julian now lives and works in London & Brighton. Between 1993-96 he studied at Liverpool John Moores University, England and then attended Royal Academy Schools in London between 1998-2001.

In 2016 he was selected for the John Moores Painting Prize and in 2012 was shortlisted for the Marmite Prize in Painting IV (2012–13).

Julian has exhibited his work nationally and internationally with solo shows in both London and China and we are delighted to be representing him. His forthcoming solo show of Paintings and works on Paper will be held at Brownsword Hepworth, and the dates of this will be announced shortly. 

Read on for our interview with Julian, below. 

Artist Statement

The imagery in my work is very heavily influenced by nostalgic visions of the 1980’s and the folk art from my mother Polish heritage. Both of these worlds have a handmade geometric quality that has a playful and primitive relevance to the world we now live in.

I try to explore this ‘clunkiness’ with tactile images that sit somewhere between order and chaos, structure and collapse, expression and control. While the underpinning of the process is held together by predetermined structures, the freewheeling application is purposely engaging and ambivalent to the expressive urge to dictate the paintings.

GORA II, 2020


January 2021


BH: Thank you so much for talking to us Julian! First of all, can you offer us some insight into what led you to becoming an artist?

My Mother was a painter and illustrator who spent her early childhood in Poland until her family fled just before the Warsaw uprising. As a child I was surrounded by her work which was quite expressive and objects she collected from Poland which I was always interested in.

Meanwhile my father was a graphic designer, his massive 60’s Bauhaus book is one of my most treasured possessions. I think you can see both influences in my work, subconsciously I think I’m still trying to please them.


BH: Were there any pivotal moments in your education or experience when you were growing up that inspired you to become an artist? Perhaps you had a tutor or friend or parent who encouraged you? Or perhaps discovering the life and work of another artist inspired you in some way?

During my A levels in about 1992 I went to see the Pop Art show at the RA and Jasper John’s at the Hayward gallery. I was fascinated with both John’s and Rauschenberg, they showed me that art could be anything,  this gave me a massive sense of freedom. I went back to school and they were pulling down some buildings so I took some old large Victorian door frames from a skip and started painting and  collaging on them. When it came to my art school interviews everyone had portfolios and I had massive door frames strapped to the car roof, it was kind of empowering and I was hooked.

Robert Rauschenberg, Buffalo II, 1964. Courtesy Christie’s.

BH: What is your favourite Museum or Cultural Institution? Why? Do you have a favourite work of art or object there?

I would have to say the Royal Academy because it provided me with my education. When you spent 3 years under the building it gets into your bones and never really leaves you. It’s been the spring board for so many artists

The Royal Academy, London

BH: Imagine that Lockdown 3.0 doesn’t exist for a moment – if you could be in London for a day, what would your day look like? Where would you go? What would you see & do? Would you take the tube, or a black cab, or a Boris Bike, or walk? Is there a favourite café or restaurant that you like to visit when you come to London? Where are your favourite sights? Do you avoid the tourists and hawkers in Trafalgar Square or enjoy being amongst the throng of crowds in Covent Garden?

I travel everywhere with my Brompton it saves me so much time, I’d cycle from Victoria station stopping of to walk through the middle of St James park because it’s London at it’s best. Then I’d hop back on my bike to the national gallery to see the early Italian masterpieces, the wing that has Piero Della Francesca, Duccio and Uccello’s it’s usually pretty quiet and you see some of the finest paintings in the world.

After this I would probably head East, maybe to Victoria Miro and a couple of private galleries. Lunch stop would be Moro restaurant because I miss it so much and in a perfect world to Gagosian for a show of Brice Marden’s calligraphic paintings . I’m naturally very optimistic with my time but aim to end the day in my old hunting ground in Kentish Town with a drink my favourite pub the Pineapple

Paulo Uccello (c. 1397 - 1475) Saint George and The Dragon
The National Gallery, London. 

BH: What is your favourite work of art in a public collection? Why?

Duccio’s annunciation at the National Gallery. Every time I’m stuck on painting I go and see this painting, all the clues are there.

Duccio, The Annunciation

Duccio (active 1278; died 1319)
'The Annunciation', 1307/8–11
Egg tempera on wood, 44.5 x 45.8 cm
The National Gallery, London

BH: What are some of the biggest challenges facing an artist working today?

I worry about the challenges for young artists, the cost of education makes it a very difficult educational path. I wonder how long art schools will carry on certainly in the same capacity. However you can see examples like turps banana changing the conventional art school route.

BH: Have you been involved in the #artistpledge on Instagram? If you have, how has it changed the way you work? Has it focused your work or led you in a different direction that you may not have otherwise have explored?

Yes the pledge has been a great support during these times. It’s really focused my paper work and ideas have developed around this. I’m really enjoying working on paper and making some more developed works especially for the gallery.

See more wonderful examples of Julian's works on Paper on his Instagram page here.

BH: Are you on Instagram? Do you enjoy using the platform? Has it changed the way you interact with an audience, and do you find yourself tempted to produce work especially for an Instagram audience?

Instagram brings a different audience to buying art and given confidence to a new generations of collectors which is great because it becomes addictive.

Instagram is great for keeping people informed and for paper work as it’s immediate and I can treat it more like prints. Ideally I think you need to experience paintings in the flesh as they have a much greater subtlety and emotional torment from the artists point a view. 

Julian working away in the Studio

BH: Have you been able to get to the studio during Lockdown, or have you commandeered a room in the house as your Lockdown studio?

My home studio has been a life saver because some studio complexes have been inaccessible. It also works well for me as I have young children. I can disappear for a couple of hours without any delays and have little pockets of productivity, I do miss the space of a large studio though.

Work In Progress

BH: What has been your favourite ‘series’ or artwork that you have made to date? Why?

I make a series of Gdańsk paintings which have lagoons in them and come from years of working with grids. I wanted to see if I could put more emotion into grid based paintings and I think these are a celebration of this.

I always feel I’m either trying to put chaos into to order or order into chaos.

Tattoo Lagoon, 2019