One to Watch

Liam Symes evokes nostalgic imagery exploring themes of isolation and serenity

Liam Symes’ paintings evoke a shared nostalgia. Inspired by the past –childhood memories, short films, and home videos–his figurative works are explorations of memory, isolation, and serenity. He typically experiments with different mediums (oil, acrylic, spray paint, and wax) to achieve a blurred, cinematic effect.

Living in Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom, Liam received a BFA (Honors) from the Plymouth College of Art as well as a National Diploma of Art and Design. He was the first place prize winner of Plymouth Young Contemporary’s Grow exhibition and the In the Frame Plymouth Young People’s Portrait Competition in 2014, and has since participated in numerous exhibitions. He has had two solo shows this year, most recently at The Pipe Gallery.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work? 

My work explores themes surrounding memory, isolation, and serenity; these are some of the ongoing themes present in my paintings today. I have come to prefer working on series and projects, rather than individual ‘one off’ paintings – this enables me to focus on a particular theme so as to portray and explore it in more depth.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?  

One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to not wait until you have a surge of inspiration, but to just continue to produce work. There have been times where I’ve been in my studio and have been staring at a blank canvas, with no clear idea in mind; however when you’re surrounded by your work and painting supplies, the ideas naturally begin to develop until you have a more concise understanding of where you’re heading.

Prefer to work with music or in silence? 

Music plays quite a major role in my process, as it gives me a chance to discover new musicians and sounds, and subsequently creates an energetic ambience which is reflected in my practice. I always work with background music, usually the radio. I find it aids my concentration and lessens the chances of my mind wandering onto various unrelated matters. Essentially, the music helps maintain my focus.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be? 

Whilst I can’t pinpoint one single piece of work, I would love to have anything by either of my two favorite painters: Alex Kanevsky or Michaël Borremans. I really like the loose techniques of Alex Kanevsky, and Michaël Borremans’ subject choices are very thought-provoking.

Who are your favorite writers?

I tend to prefer reading non-fiction articles and texts, as opposed to fictional novels. I have a keen interest in psychology, so I spend a fair amount of time reading and expanding my knowledge in these areas.

A book I am looking to begin reading soon is Emotional Agility by Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. The book sets out to encourage readers to achieve their most valued goals and create success with better habits and behaviors.