JD.: Can you please tell us how you started off as an artist?
I started by going to clubs to listen to jazz music. When I 18, I was an art student, and I was in a relationship with a trumpet player, who was 15 years older than me. He was into jazz, and he took me to jazz gigs, but I was young and I didn't like it. I rather liked the look of the instrument, because at the time I was a metal-worker. So instead of listening, I was drawing the saxophone. I would arrive at a gig and I would be sitting and drawing, rather than listening and drinking. And this was twenty-five, thirty years ago.
I am well known on the London free music and jazz scene where I’ve painted and performed live at gigs for 25 years. I had my first solo exhibition of gig paintings at London’s Jazz café in 1988.
I work with the frisson of the music observing the relationship between the musician and instrument. I try to capture the energy and essence of the gig in the real time. Sometimes I work solely with sound and ignore the visual content producing abstract imagery. In performance situations I use my materials and surfaces sonically.
The area of my work resulting in representational live gig imagery has flourished again since having an ongoing exhibition the new Vortex in Dalston. It has become a long term home to my work and enables me to create a changing showcase of current gig paintings. I have been resident artist on their festivals and had my live painting projected into Gillett square at Vortex 25, and again when I performed with The People Band. My work appeared on ‘Vortex Live’ on the space.org.
In November 2013 to celebrate 25 years of painting at gigs I curated a successful exhibition and launch gig at the Rich Mix. It featured people whose work and its ‘product’ relates to the diversity that exists within jazz. The exhibition comprised paintings, drawings, posters, cover art, graphics and ephemera that glimpsed the music’s broad subgenres. It included Andy Sheppard of Lowlightphoto / Swiftyand Paul Bradshaw as Stereophonic supply co./ Treader label and Ashley Wales. Here is a resulting interview popupmusic
My gig imagery is used widely for publicity material and as graphic illustration. I painted the live cover and disc images of Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio '11th Gate' cd on Motema. This resulted in me going to the Jazzahead trade show in Brehmen Germany in April 2013, in part to paint at Motema's 10th birthday celebrations.
I've recently created live images and cover design for Jean Toussaint 4's recent release 'Tate Song' on Lyte Records.
33 of my gig images are currently available in Ltd edition print. Three of these prints, purchased by the BBC, can be seen in the current series of Holby City.
Although my passion remains with improv I paint many styles of music and in 2012 painted ‘The London Requiem’ a classical piece live at dusk in Abney Park Cemetery. This was live streamed on the Space.Org.
At the solid core of my practice is my abstract studio based work. I'm interested in the juxtaposition and layering of colour which I use in conjunction with collaged monoprinted papers. I paint and monoprint from surfaces to make texture. I create abstract work largely without narrative. I may have a title or a very loose idea but I mostly let the work take its own momentum. If I want to to simulate the energy of a live gig in an abstract work I'll play furious jazz or improv while painting. The forms in my abstract work, have ovoid, elliptical and kidney shaped references and holes that allow the lower surface to penetrate. These themes have reoccurred since I was a metalworker. This work has been described as 'mid century modern'
I have shown on almost a yearly basis at the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust since 2004
The art committee there have purchased and commissioned abstract work from me for their public spaces and have used this imagery on Trust book publications (Karnak books).
In January 2013 I began to show work at the East London Psychotherapy unit in Homerton. This is an ongoing and changing exhibition and I am about to make some site specific pieces to commission for the unit.
In the beginning, I didn't draw the musicians, only the instruments. A double bass would be on its own, with no person playing it, because I wasn't painting them, I was designing rather than painting. And then over the years I became confident enough to draw the person, because sometimes there would be no instrument when a singer would come out with only a microphone.
Recently, I was invited to another big festival with traditional Indian music. I can paint other things, not just jazz. The fans love it, and the public love it. What you see here, I painted all of this in two days, with every gig lasting for half an hour. When I paint, I go up and down - one stage here, one stage here, half an hour each.
You can see that I'm a worker, and you can see how much work I've brought here, even though I could've brought some small things. I brought it all here in a car. I've been working for about three months to get it all together.
I'm known for my work in my world, in London. There are three venues where I go. So this is a venue called The Vortex, and they have my work all the time. You can see it there.
JD.: How many pictures can you do per day? Two or three?
More. Lots more. This was day in two days. I've done twenty paintings in two days, for each of the short half-hour concerts. Influential artists for me are Picasso, Miro, Hepworth, Sickert, Hitchens. Pop art got me going with the realisation you don’t need to be able to draw to make great art, though I do think it helps. I've also had the good fortune of having fantastic practicing artists, designers and musicians as friends and peers. I’ve always been surrounded by great talent. Including in childhood where although occupied with the bones of earning a living and running a family my mum and dad always cleverly made things. They went on in retirement to take up ceramics and my dad became a good painter.
LEYLA EFENDIYEVA.Jazz Dunyasi