Guests gathered under fairy lights whilst sipping gin cocktails on the garden patio of the effortlessly cool Hoxton Hotel in London – the creative crowd had turned out in support of actor and artist Edward Akrout at the opening of his latest exhibition First Impression at Hoxtown Gallery.
The corridors of the Hoxtown Gallery are lined with charcoal, ink and acrylic designs, along with larger oil paintings that adorn the foyer. Akrout’s collection of portrait-style drawings set the theme for the affair – this is the first debut of limited edition prints of his artwork, including an exclusive piece for the Hoxton that will be released throughout the company’s hotels internationally.
Vinyl wall wording states that First Impression was inspired from Akrout’s travels. I asked him to further elaborate on the exhibition and its origins.
Akrout said the collection spawned in New York in the fall of 2013, when he was immobilised by a back injury. Despite being paralyzed from pain, the city’s energy dragged him from his solitude to the streets. He distilled his emotions into an array of contemporary abstract drawings and paintings. Akrout continued to create pieces after returning to his native Paris in 2014 and completed the series in London at the beginning of this year.
Whether bumping into characters on the sidewalk of New York or people watching along the Seine, Akrout has based his work on numerous stories and portraits of vibrant individuals. His subjects range from loved ones to random personalities who cross his path, with every narrative being greater than the last.
Akrout has said his purpose is that of “capturing emotion and movement whilst translating it into the purest and simplest form on paper and canvas.” He aims for his pieces to speak for themselves, whilst connecting emotionally with viewers.
Attendees noted his understated trademarks, such as the depiction of a collar or a tie, possibly hailing from his aristocratic roots, or the signature cigarette in his caricatures, perhaps stemming from a suitably French upbringing.
There is an unmistakable connection between Akrout’s two chosen disciplines. As an actor his job is to inhabit different emotional states, and as an artist he has an uncanny ability to capture (in only a few strokes of the brush or pen) the fleeting emotions and personality traits of those he encounters.
For Akrout, raised in an artistic family, painting came naturally and has remained his passion. After selling privately for many years, he publicly released his artwork in February 2015 in response to an overwhelming demand.
The 33-year-old was born to a Franco-British mother and Tunisian father. Raised in France, he studied philosophy at The Sorbonne before attending Le Cours Florent in Paris to study theatre, followed by time at the National Institute in Bucharest. He then moved to England, where he studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Since graduating in 2008, Akrout has been prominent on both the screen and the stage.
Akrout is quick to point out that even though he is capable of handling the daily rejection and criticism he faces as an actor – the idea of establishing himself within the art community terrifies him. Evidently, by publicly displaying his artwork, he has embarked on his most personal venture yet.
Akrout’s artwork is an array of first impressions the world made on him, as well as the first he will have on viewers. The exhibition runs at The Hoxton Shoreditch until 2 January 2016, offering visitors an insight into the world of Edward Akrout.
By Shelby Welinder
Edward Akrout at Hoxtown Gallery, Hoxton Hotel, London, EC2H 3HU, until 2 January 2016.