Artist who captures North London's 'special light'

A detail from Marie by Joshua Press

A detail from Marie by Joshua Press - Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Highgate artist Joshua Press holds his debut solo exhibition 'Different Bodies' in Fitzrovia next month.

The drawings and paintings of individual and group portraits were all created over the past three years in his home studio.

Working from observation, with a strong perception of light, they include a self-portrait which was inspired by Pompeian frescoes. The 33-year-old studied figurative art in France, Italy and Jerusalem, punctuated by residencies at venues including Cob Gallery in Camden Town.

Self portrait Joshua Press

Self Portrait by Joshua Press is part of Different Bodies an exhibition at 139 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia - Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Asked about his working process he says: "I work exclusively from life. Memory is constantly involved and reinforced by continuous looking. However, for the vast majority of the painting process, my subjects will be in front of me. Imagination plays a role in it too."

Press says his list of influences is "very long," starting with the early 20th Century Camden Town Group of Walter Sickert, Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore.

"Having grown up in North London, there was something alluring about the special sort of painted atmospherics that those artists captured. They felt familiar and reflected that North London sort of light. More recently, the works of William Coldstream have had a strong influence. There is a beautiful work called, ‘ Window in Hampstead -1981’, which evokes a quality that I have been aspiring to in my latest works."

Clementine interior 2020

Clementine interior 2020 - Credit: Joshua Press

During his residency at Cob Gallery, Press worked on a large scale group of paintings called the "Camden Town Poster Studies' which culminated in an open studio event.

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"I had sitters in most days, and painted very quickly. Those portraits rarely included the sitters’ facial features. They were more focused on large colour/tonal relationships and on capturing that Camden light."

His solo show is largely figures in interior settings  - this time with features - and he identifies a "diaristic" theme running through them.

"They are of friends and family, painted in the rooms where I live. Pictorially, the tonalities are often closely keyed and the colours are unsaturated. Trying to evoke that English sort of light mentioned, and also as something of an homage to painters that have influenced me, like Giorgio Morandi.

Press grew up "behind the Finchley road" before moving to Highgate. After a spell abroad and a "detour via Limehouse" he's back in N6, trying to capture that very particular light.

Different Bodies runs at 139 Whitfield Street, from October 5-10.