UK drummer Gilson Lavis’ portraits of music greats in NYC show

Jimi Hendrix, ink on paper, signed by artist


NEW YORK – British drummer and artist Gilson Lavis will present his first ever New York City art exhibit “Gilson Lavis: In Tune With The Portraits” at the Salomon Arts Gallery at 83 Leonard St. in Tribeca from Sept. 15th through Oct. 5th. His paintings have become very much sought after in British music and art world inner circles.

These acrylic on canvas board paintings and ink drawings by the veteran rock and rhythm and blues drummer are now making their U.S. debut after becoming popular in and around London. Best known currently as the versatile drummer with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and the original drummer for the British band Squeeze, Gilson Lavis is now shining the spotlight on his second career as an artist, after enjoying acclaim as one of the most sought after drummers in the UK over the last 40 years.

Lavis started the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra over 20 years ago, with longtime friend and former Squeeze band mate Holland, who, of course, has become an institution in the UK hosting BBC Television’s Later With Jools Holland over the last 25 years. The orchestra performs throughout Europe and the U.K on a regular basis.

Mainly known for his unusual portraits of music legends and performers, much of his inspiration as an artist came out of genuine respect for many of the talented people he has admired, known and played with over the years, which reads like a “who’s who” of popular music. Lavis was a founding member and original drummer in the group Squeeze, along with pianist Holland. Squeeze achieved huge success all though the 1980s, and Gilson later went on to perform live or record with the likes of Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton, Smokey Robinson, Cher, Paul McCartney, Barry White, BB King, Robert Plant and Amy Winehouse.


Ronnie Wood, acrylic on canvas board, signed by artist.


As Lavis explains, “I find a peace and serenity in art that I have never known before. Most of my portraits feature artists and performers I have had the privilege of working with and that have been of inspiration to me. My art is a painted biography of my musical life, one I can never hope to finish, but what a joy it is to engage in. I enjoy working in black and white, giving my art a bit of stage drama and allowing me to play with the shadows, while occasionally adding a little splash of color. My work, I hope, communicates the close working relationship I have with many of the subjects I paint.”

And, as Music Riot in the UK remarked in their recent story, “I’m fascinated by the paintings and the way they reflect the personalities of the people Gilson portrayed. It struck me that, while they’re not hyper-realistic, they’re a long way from caricature.”

The subjects in Lavis’ series of paintings and sketches span the decades from the 1950s and ’60s: BB King, Chuck Berry, Etta James, Eartha Kitt, James Brown, Wilson Picket, Ray Charles, Ronnie Spector, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin … to the more contemporary … Keith Moon, Al Green, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello … to current day songstresses like Adele and the late Amy Winehouse.


Bruce Springsteen, acrylic on canvas board, signed by artist.


Much like New York City, the art and music worlds in London often overlap. Many of his musician and tastemaker friends there began collecting his paintings, which are increasingly in demand in celebrity circles.

“Gilson Lavis: In Tune With the Portraits” is being presented at the Salomon Arts Gallery, a mainstay on the Tribeca art and music scene since the 1970s. Rodrigo and Gigi Salomon have been bringing together the worlds of art and music through their exhibits and various events for many years.

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