Tell me about yourself! You’re based currently in Edinburgh where you just finished up an MFA program at Edinburgh College of Art — always a place in my heart for that school! Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Macclesfield, south of Manchester. I did my BA at University of Leeds and University of California Santa Barbara, before moving up to Edinburgh College of Art, where I’ve just completed my MFA.
Do you remember a moment when you discovered art for the first time, or realized that you wanted to make it yourself?
My parents had a framed poster for Hockney’s MOMA retrospective at home with an image of his Nichols Canyon painting that I always loved, and in fact I think I remember colouring in a print out of it at school. My parents eventually gave me the print that now hangs in my hallway; it’s certainly an image that has remained a constant in my life. I studied in Yorkshire and California; maybe there is something in that…
Much of your work, especially in your thesis exhibition, are large, abstract, and boldly colorful. What are the ideas behind these works?
Reminiscent of tagged and vandalised walls; the scale and mediums I use are designed to push my gesture into a more performative space where I forgo a level of control and allow things to happen. These are not mistaken paintings but paintings full of mistakes…
In terms of colour I am a big believer in shows matching or reflecting the season in which they are shown, these definitely feel like summer paintings to the romantic in me!
What interests you in spray paint as a method for applying acrylic paint?
By design it allows you force paint into canvas in a very unique way, the majority of my sprayed work is actually done through the rear of the canvas. By spraying paint through the physical surface of the canvas I create an added distance between me and the image, a space for the medium to dictate.
What is your process like?
I make a lot of work but I don’t like to spend too much time physically painting, I am an earlier riser and tend to only work in the morning – I spend the afternoon assessing what I’ve made and making decisions that I will act upon the following day. By working like this I enter the studio with a clear intent, something that I hope translates into the feel of the paintings themselves.
What is your studio or workspace like?
I have been very lucky to spend the last two years at ECA in a beautiful studio with an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle, which I’ll certainly miss. I have just moved across the city to a new space with no view but everything I need!
If you could meet anyone at all, and talk about anything with them over lunch or a drink, who would it be, and what would you want to chat about?
I would ask Calvin Marcus and Ida Ekblad to chat about their recent shows ‘Were Good Men’ and ‘Diary of a Madam’ – simply because I’ve been crushing over their respective work and would love to meet them!
What do you need or value most as an artist?
An honest, supportive and active peer group.
What comes next? Do you find anything particularly daunting or challenging now that you’re leaving the university setting?
Too often I see people leaving art college without engaging with anyone outside their course mates. Having made the same mistake at undergrad, I’m aware of how Art College can seem like this big important thing and how quickly you realise it isn’t! I wish graduates would talk to their peers from other colleges sooner and find ways of collaborating and helping each other out. The explosion of artist’s on Instagram and other platforms is certainly helping this connectivity, but I’d like to see more!
What are you working on right now?
Alongside my own practice, I run Suede Gallery with my good friend and fellow artist Massimo Stenta, here in Edinburgh – we have a really busy few months ahead and I’m really excited about the programme we have lined up!
Anything else you would like to add?
Just to say thank you Kate for chatting to me – I look forward to discovering more artists through Young Space.
Find more at joecheetham.com and on Instagram @cheethamwj!
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