• Jake Grewal & Jordan Cook & Johann Rohl

  • Jake Grewal: I met Jordan Cook and Johann Rohl in 2018 during the postgraduate program at The Royal Drawing School. Our friendship has evolved over time much like our practices and although I feel we’ve known each other longer, it’s recently we’ve started to confide in one another.  Sharing an intensely unique experience like The Drawing Year creates invisible ties between us and we feel comfortable talking about drawing, identity, trauma and inspirations. Here are some topics we talked about as the sun set on board a boat in Vauxhall.

  • Jake Grewal: Prior to coming out at 16 I was labeled gay by my peers in school. There weren’t any...

    Jake Grewal: Prior to coming out at 16 I was labeled gay by my peers in school. There weren’t any out people in my year group so I found myself becoming my own teacher. It felt like I was exploring what it means to be queer in solitude. I tried to create common ground between my girlfriends’ experiences and my own however their experiences were, and still are, inherently different. I know I am still working through this experience, a kind of othering and shame associated with my identity. I often think that I’m trying to come to terms with myself as a complete person who is not perpetually different or on the outside of things looking in.


    How have your early experiences affected your interaction with your queer identity?

  • Jordan Cook: I guess I've always had quite a complicated relationship with my own identity. I grew up in a...

    Jordan Cook - $5 Rose

    Jordan Cook: I guess I've always had quite a complicated relationship with my own identity. I grew up in a post-war New Town called Harlow in Essex. I don't remember having much of a sense of life outside the town apart from when we'd go to visit my nan in London. As Jake said, my understanding of my own identity was only ever based off of the people who were around me. I didn't know any queer people growing up, and I definitely didn't have the tools to confront any of it on my own. The only outlet for me to learn about being gay was through the Internet, which, as you can imagine, offered quite a distorted view into queer culture.

  • Johann Rohl: Being on the outside looking in is a really apt way of putting it, that’s how I’ve often...

    Johann Rohl - Gemini

    Johann Rohl: Being on the outside looking in is a really apt way of putting it, that’s how I’ve often felt as a queer kid growing up as I could identify my sexuality from as early as I can remember. I had an experience when playing out with the boys where I was asked why I was wearing a bright rainbow striped jumper and that made me start to become very aware of my decisions. My flamboyant qualities weren’t accepted very much growing up and I think its made me become quite self reflective as I feel like I’ve had to constantly check myself and censor certain parts of myself that weren't accepted. It often feels like I’m living with multiple people in one body: there's always been a lot of conflict between these different parts of myself which I'm working hard to bring peace to. Drawing has always really helped with this, it's a safe space that I can inhabit, be myself and explore ideas without having to censor myself.

  • Jake Grewal - Forgetting to Remember
  • JG: I’ve often felt a sense of isolation in regards to finding a tribe or like-minded people. I’m not sure whether it is something to do with growing up in London, a city so big as there is a sense of anonymity, the idea ones notion of difference is hand in hand with the queer experience or that is inherently human to feel other. I find it interesting that in spaces,for me, like gay bars, often make me feel a sense of unease or disconnect.


    How important are queer spaces to you and how did do you operate within such a vast city like London?

  • JC: It's weird, I remember going to my first gay bar when I started my BA in Norwich and feeling...

    Jordan Cook - Ball Games

    JC: It's weird, I remember going to my first gay bar when I started my BA in Norwich and feeling like I wasn't really a part of it. I loved how the space allowed everyone to fully embrace who they were, yet, I wasn't really sure where I fitted into all of it, which also felt fairly isolating. It's only recently when studying in London and meeting new people in art circles that I feel like I've found queer spaces that I genuinely align with, and that feels really valuable to me.

  • JR: I grew up in a small town called Keighley that’s in West Yorkshire (imagine God´s Own Country) so I...

    Johann Rohl - Untitled III

    JR: I grew up in a small town called Keighley that’s in West Yorkshire (imagine God´s Own Country) so I didn’t have many queer spaces available to me growing up. My friendship groups were spaces where I could feel safe and accepted and the internet: chatting to random guys on instant messenger and obscure emo sites like Vampirefreaks.com gave me a virtual space to figure out where I stood behind the safety of a screen.

  • JG: When thinking of the commonalities between the works, the inclusion of and retreat into a physical or abstract space seemed poignant and relevant. I frequently look to natural spaces in my work often observationally drawing from the landscapes around where I live, searching for solace. I return to certain places more than others and this practice often feels like a kind of mediation or pilgrimage.  The inclusion of nature in the work is often used metaphorically or allegorically alluding to semi-autobiographic experiences.  I try to look at figurative elements of the work abstractly allowing room for speculation behind inclusion of visual clues. When working with the landscape I try to treat it as if it were a portrait, I see no difference. One can say with a landscape what one can say with bodies. Both are living and tell a story. 


    What spaces do you include in your work and how does that talk to your internal space?

  • JC: Most of the spaces in my work are based on places I've grown up in. I'm quite overly-sentimental about a lot of things, and I think that the spaces that I create for myself in my drawings offer me somewhere to offload all of that onto. They're very banal places, but they carry a lot of baggage which I quite enjoy unpicking. There's something about the process of piecing together fragments of themes that emerge that feels really cathartic to me. It becomes less about the actual drawing and more about the meditative space, and if people enjoy looking at the drawings after too then that's pretty cool.


    JR: I see the spaces in my drawings as landscapes of the inner world and so they don’t tend to make much sense to me at the time of conception. I tend to think about the spaces in my drawings the least in the process but they seem to be important to me in trying to convey a feeling or an idea. I like having the space reveal itself to me when working on a piece and seeing how it encapsulates both the feeling channelled and something completely new.

  • JG: In my work there is a dialect between the figures and the landscape. I enjoy playing with the ambiguity...

    Jake Grewal - Self Portrait

    JG: In my work there is a dialect between the figures and the landscape. I enjoy playing with the ambiguity of form and the merging of shapes. A tree can be a figure but also an arm, two figures can be read as one. Figures are woven into the landscape and emerge in a kind of metamorphosis. I attempt to capture this fluidity in the handling of paint. The marks are abstract but construct figurative elements as parts of the work are built up while others remain thin veils of pigment. I see this liquidity and fluidity in nature, identity, time and memory. Even paint itself is a fluid medium, enabling change as time progresses. I remember reading somewhere that oil paint actually doesn’t dry for maybe 30 years? It’s alive in that way. 


    In your works how do the materials you use reflect the subject of the work, and why do you choose the materials you use?

  • JC: I used to have a particular playlist I'd go to when working in the studio, but recently I've become more interested in switching between different genres or trying the radio and seeing how it impacts the way that I'm working. It's about the thereness of it more than anything, a rhythm in the background that reminds of the outside world. Or maybe my music taste is just really stale now, I'm not sure.


    JR: Music is a big part of my life and work and I very rarely make drawings without it as it’s the easiest way for me to tap into a mood or atmosphere. I get really taken in by catchy hooks and riffs that get lodged in my brain so I have to draw sometimes in order to get them loose. I grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music but what really got me was pop music, especially the songs produced by Max Martin who worked with Britney spears and The Backstreet Boys. He contributed to a lot of the soundtracks to my life growing up so that love for simple, catchy melody has stuck with me and I think it's shaped a lot of what my interests are in art and the way that I make images.

  • JG: In my work there are references to Romanticism. I often find myself down a rabbit hole listening to lectures...

    Johann Rohl - Untitled I

    JG: In my work there are references to Romanticism. I often find myself down a rabbit hole listening to lectures of artists I particularly or associate with. It can be very empowering having an idols spirit with you in the studio as you make the work. Recently I listened to an interview with Michael Armitage on ‘A Brush With’, a podcast that interviews painters. I also look to works by queer modernists like Pavel Tchelitchew and Neo-Romantics like Keith Vaughan. 


    Do you carry any particular spirit with you in the studio when you make work? Are there any voices that have shaped the work you make?

  • JC: I try not to complicate going into the studio too much, there'd be too much pressure otherwise. Though I'm always thinking about artists. Recently it's been a wrestle between Leon Golub, David Park, Sam Doyle, Alice Neel, and Anselm Kiefer. Egon Schiele is always there too. Oh and Bruegel is a new one for me.


    JR: I've made a lot of work to Kate Bush - The Hounds of Love and Aerial so I've carried a lot of the different energies from those albums into my earlier drawings. Again, it's mostly songs or albums that i like to let consume me in order to work because it's the quickest route to feeling and I like how much that can affect the creative decisions I make on the plane.




    Pronouns: He/Him

    Location: London 

    Grewal’s work expresses autobiographical experiences within the language of  Romanticism. The work is situated within a dream-like reality that references the male nude through a queer gaze. Figures are exposed to the natural world which is often used allegorically to vocalise Grewal’s internal landscape.





    Pronouns: He/Him

    Location: Harlow New Town

    Jordan Cook grew up in Harlow New Town, just outside of London. He graduated with a BA Hons in Illustration at Norwich University of The Arts in 2016. His recent works draw the viewer in to sunken urban-scapes of small-town living. Fleeting, sincere and intimate, Cook's charcoal drawings use everyday backdrops of shopping centre’s and street corners as stage sets for loosely connected narratives to play out.





    Pronouns: He/Him/They/Them

    Location: London

    Johann Christian Rohl was born in Hamburg and bred in West Yorkshire. After graduating from Anglia Ruskin University in 2014 with a BA in Illustration he moved to the North Coast of Scotland where he worked closely with artist Lotte Glob. In 2016 he worked on an illustration project with Clive Hicks-Jenkins. These formative periods of introspection in the North and working closely with artists in the UK have furthered his compulsion to explore personal mythologies and extend his creative vocabulary through a broad range of processes, predominantly involving drawing as a starting point.