Leigh Mulley lives and works on the South Coast of the UK. She paints on canvas and does enormous wall murals and all her paintings are incredibly realistic. She has a passion for seagulls.
Hey Leigh, your paintings represent the glorious colour and disappointment of the British seaside, why did you decide to start painting it?
Growing up in Kent meant lots of visits to its coastal towns, and having Londoner parents pretty much guaranteed family trips to Margate and Ramsgate. I think a quiet infatuation bubbled away without my knowledge. When I began painting full time I was conscious that I hankered after the imagery, but spent a number of years trying to work out why. As a kid you are enchanted by the sights, smells and sounds – rich, brash colour, waves of light bulbs, candy floss, chips, gulls, 8-bit melodies and dropping coins. Of course if you look closely a lot of the bulbs are missing, the paintwork is tired and chipped, the arcade carpet is full of gum. You are being sold a lie. A beautiful lie. A soft, old, friendly, seaside, honest lie – and you love it.
Any plans to go on tour and capture Brits abroad in Spain and Thailand and places like that?
I would, but they never seem quite as gaudy or poignant. I have found myself taking pics of the souvenir shops that target Brits though – carousels of hooky sunglasses seem strangely alluring.
Your work is outrageously realistic, when you’re painting ice cream vans and chips do you get kinda hungry?
There have been instances where my studio has been full of candy floss or chips, as I attempt to find perfect examples for paintings. The herring gulls on my roof terrace are most grateful for those types of projects.
You were part of Dismaland in 2015 – the biggest art show in the world – how was it for you?
Haha, well quite! I’m not even sure what the answer to that is. I’m going to say exhausting, surreal and exhilarating. After getting the invitation, I had maybe four months to get the work together. That’s pretty tight for me, doing large-ish canvases with a reasonably high level of detail. It’s also pretty darn unusual to get an email like that – so the mood went from ‘is this a scam’ to ‘holy shit’ as communication developed. Then a summer filled with stupid amounts of hard slog turned into going to see the show. I found the exhibition breathtaking, and the cherry on the cake was meeting some amazing artists whilst in Weston.
Where can we see more of your work?
I’m hoping to get a few more walls on the go next year, most probably Kent coastal locations. I’ll be spending the next few months working on some Waltzer themed pieces. You can catch up stuff at leighmulley.com, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.