135 artists are taking part in "Inside Job" which takes place on the 7th and 8th of April on Level 6 of Tate Modern. Over the next few weeks The Rebel Magazine will be chatting to some of the Tate staff who are showing their artwork. Today's artist is Lloyd Ellis.
Q) Where did you grow up and what kind of education did you receive?
"I was born and grew up in Wimbledon, in South London. I went to a regular school that had such diverse illustrious alumni as Raymond Briggs, Tom Robinson and John Major. I've always drawn and painted but my school wasn't great at teaching art (even though it was very close to Wimbledon College of Art), I probably learnt more from Tony Hart on TV to be honest. I went to art college at first in the East End and then Maidstone College of Art (where Tony Hart once studied... coincidentally) where I studied multi-disciplinary communication media, which meant a bit of everything from illustration and design to photography and animation. I focussed on animation and illustration."
Q) How long have you been working at the Tate and what's the best show you've seen there?
"I've been working for Tate since 2000 when Tate Modern opened. I gave up being a freelance animator to get a proper job in the shop on the books team. I've worked at both Tate Modern and Tate Britain shops in various roles. My favourite exhibition has to be Frida Kahlo in 2005. She is my favourite painter and her life and works are so inspiring. I love the surrealism, her love of nature and her colours. Most of all I love the way her gaze makes you reflect on yourself and what you are seeing. It's like she is looking into you."
Q) What can you tell me about the work you're exhibiting in the Tate Modern show?
"I have always been fascinated with lemurs. They are by far my favourite animals. Our primate cousins are endemic to the island of Madagascar, and are some of the most endangered creatures in the world.
I went to Madagascar a few years ago with an NGO and got to study and meet some lemurs in the wild. It was the most amazing thing I have ever done. I started painting lemurs to raise funds for my trip and still love painting them as they are fascinating subjects. I mostly paint with poster paints and also use felt tip pens and markers.
In this new painting, The Lemur Tree, I wanted to bring together twelve species of lemurs (of the 100+ that exist), from different regions (ring-tailed, indri, sifaka, aye-aye, brown lemur, red ruffed, black and white ruffed, sportive lemur, bamboo lemur, wooly lemur, mouse lemur and fat-tailed dwarf lemur). Other indigenous wildlife in the picture include a predatory fossa, a chameleon and a gecko as well as birds: a hoopoe and a red-tailed newtonia. The tree is a stylised version of the endemic tapia tree, with baobab trees on the horizon. More flora and fauna can be spotted in the grass which is composed of tiny doodles.
Sadly over 80% of the original rainforests, where most of the wildlife on Madagascar lives, has been lost since humans arrived on the island (most of that in the last 50 years), and the deforestation of unprotected forests continues to increase. As seed-spreading lemur populations continue to decline, their habitat is also under threat and the wonderful diversity of nature found only on Madagascar may soon be lost forever."
Q) What's the best thing about working for the Tate?
"It is definitely the people. I love meeting visitors and customers in the shops. They are mostly friendly and such a diverse mixture of people. They are constantly surprising. It is always a pleasure to help make someone's visit to Tate Modern a pleasant one. The staff in the shops are also brilliant. Most of us get on really well, support each other and enjoy working together. No two days are the same."