Creative experience is what drives Justin Lees. “When I’m painting, I’m connected to the world and feel a part of it,” he tells me. “It’s like the world is a part of me.” It’s not hard to see why. Justin’s works are a riot of colour and movement, drawing the viewer deep into vast layers of paint, pastel and pencil.
His paintings start their lives in his studio in Newcastle, NSW, where Justin spends hours every day in his favourite red armchair, painting with an endless array of media and tools. From brushes to knives, rags and sponges, “literally everything provides a new opportunity for articulation,” he says. Slowly, a gamut of textures build up and come together, expressing a kinetic energy which inscribes the works with emotion and depth.
His hand is guided by music, which is always present in his studio, playing from an old 1980s boombox. The type of music differs, be it punk rock or love songs that suit the sentiment he is striving to express. For Justin it sets the palate and energy of each unique piece: “Music is the soundtrack to our lives and the doorway to feeling – my work always starts with music.” Indeed, his latest works are based on Love Song by The Cure, which was the song that played as his wife walked down the aisle at their wedding.
Justin is constantly working to expand his craft. Though he has not done any formal study in painting, he has tertiary qualifications in graphic design and photography, and hopes to expand his practice to encompass these and other media. Alongside his Love Song series, he is currently working on a second commission for the Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle and a show which will be held at Newcastle’s Onwards Studios.
While his exhibition schedule gets busier by the day, Justin remains lost in the creation of his work. Textures and colours mix and clash, with each stroke painstakingly applied to create a sense of organised chaos. Just as Justin gets lost in his process, he invites us to do the same as we gaze into their concinnity of colour.
Feature image: Justin Lees in his studio.