There is a dreamer’s eye to the work of London-based artist and designer Luke Edward Hall, whose wandering brush strokes give life to now-signature motifs of Grecian columns, classical busts and boys sporting romantically aloof expressions. He deftly balances a sense of longing for far-off places, times and figures with a masterful eye for color that ensures a jolt of modernity in distinctive artworks that have been emblazoned across velvet slippers for Stubbs and Wootton, fashion campaigns for Burberry and playfully reimagined travel souvenirs for Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano.
Hall’s creative impulse emerged during childhood in Hampshire where his imagination was stoked by Greek mythology and the creation of a fanzine, Cake — which chronicled his fascination for fashion, music and art — while a weekend job at a National Trust house nurtured a nostalgic heart and penchant for antiques.
Intent on a career in fashion, he studied at London’s Central Saint Martins; however, shortly after graduating, the opportunity to work with noted interior architect Ben Pentreath took him to the world of design. It wasn’t long before the desire to conceive and create his own work saw him strike out on his own with an eponymous collection.
Travel serves as a way to refresh the eye for Hall, who makes creative pilgrimages to sites he reads about from the pages of history, be it to discover the color palettes of Rajasthan or the grand scale of a castle in Bavaria. Destinations not yet visited making their way into his work as a precursor to actually traveling there — the tension between myth and reality fusing into a particular kind of magic.
“I’ve done lots of drawings of Morocco and of people in Moroccan settings, but I haven’t actually been there so it’s exciting to finally see it in real life,” Hall explains from London. “I think there’s something quite powerful in picturing a place before you’ve been and taking inspiration from it.”
Where do you think the sense of nostalgia and romance comes from in your work? I’m a total romantic at heart — I just am — and I often look to the past for inspiration. For example, I’ve been interested in Greek and Roman mythology and English folklore since I was very young. I have always had an overactive imagination and been drawn to stories of legends and magic. I have lots of obsessions with different periods in time, one of them being the 1920s and ’30s, and the artists who were working then such as Rex Whistler and Cecil Beaton. I’m also very much inspired by the Bloomsbury Group. I think a lot of designers and artists are inspired by the past. I think you have to be. Then I try and reinterpret things in my own way.
How does travel and imagining far-off places feed back into your work? I read somewhere that Karl Lagerfeld has not been to lots of the places he’s done collections based on and that he creates from his imagination, and I do think there’s something quite interesting about that. On the other hand, I also think you have to go and experience a place in real life to truly appreciate it. There is something magical about going to a place and comparing it to how you’d imagined it. When I went to Rajasthan, it blew me away because it was ten times more amazing than I thought it was going to be, and I’d imagined it to be spectacular.
Has there been a place that’s particularly inspired you? I wouldn’t say there’s been one in particular. I think I subconsciously take inspiration from all the different places I’ve visited. Although in saying this I go to Italy a lot and find it extremely inspiring on many levels.
What keeps you going back? I love Italian cities — Rome, Venice, Florence. I also love the countryside. I love the food, people, culture, architecture. It all comes together to create an intoxicating experience.
I feel like the idea of the Grand Tour is particularly linked to your aesthetic. I definitely find the idea of the Grand Tour inspiring. I love the fact that it was essentially a cultural holiday for young men from England (of means!) to go and look at art and sculpture and beautiful things and generally just be inspired. In the same way, when I travel, I’m always looking for beauty and inspiration for my work.
What other destinations have been inspiring your imagination lately? I’m obsessed with King Ludwig II who built all those amazing castles in Bavaria. He was a very delicate, soulful, romantic character. He had a difficult life and didn’t really want to be a king and built his incredible castles as a kind of fantasy to escape into. Sadly, he died quite young in very mysterious circumstances. I’m desperate to see his castles. Afterwards I’d like to take the train to Salzburg and then Vienna (to catch Wes Anderson’s current exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum). Yes, I very much fancy a Mitteleuropean adventure in 2019!