Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m from a town called Poynton just outside Manchester but currently based in Newcastle Upon-Tyne after graduating from Fine Art BA at Newcastle Uni.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I feel I first discovered the love of art through my Art teacher at college, Jane. She was so passionate and was constantly telling me about new artists that she discovered. I think this rubbed off on me a lot.
However, I think it was in my first year at Uni when I wanted to show people how I see the world differently. How simple things can often be overlooked and the beauty in mundane objects. I was taking photos of everything that held some influence to my practice and this became significant in where my practice is now. I also think there’s something special when explaining your work to someone and they either ‘get it’ or their eyes light up.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Newcastle is a great city for young artists. It is very cheap, which is a plus but the art community here is ace! There is always something going on around the city and everyone seems to looks out for each other. I currently hold a studio at The Newbridge Project which is a great artist run space. I feel I’m part of something bigger as they constantly create opportunities for artists and hold various programmes and residencies.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I managed to experiment a lot while in education and luckily found what I really enjoyed doing in my final year and have been continuing on from that after graduating. I’ve been focusing on painting that juxtapose images and materials associated with my recent and distant past. I interweave references to play on the idea of visual skeuomorphism. The images I select are designed to trigger recognition and associations in the viewer. The works are semi-autobiographical and invite the viewer, via shared relations, to identify with aspects of my own character.
What is your process like?
My paintings are typically composed digitally first. Overlaying and juxtaposing images from a visual archive I have been collecting. This collection ranges from my own photographs, scans from books and images sourced from the internet. The grouping of particular images, colours and materials is intuitive. In this way the works suggest a subliminal nostalgia, a visual timeline or mind-map reflecting my past and present visual fascinations. I then create the composed image into a physical object (painting). I think it was artist Anna Brass who mentioned she saw herself as a shitty 3D printer – I kinda like that.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I mentioned skeuomorphism before, this was brought to my attention by curator George Vasey, it is basically a design feature that mimics it’s real world counterpart to help us navigate the internet/technology. Steve Jobs used it a lot in the design of the iPhone. An example is the swoosh of the paper plane you here after sending an email. I’m also obviously influenced by the internet and how we see images and how we view art. More specifically our digital digest history and how we must subliminally process a lot of visual information.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I currently work at the cafe in The Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art to pay bills and help fund my practice. It’s nice because I get to meet a lot of the artists when they’re setting up their shows. If anybody is visiting Newcastle come say Hi, I can whip up some nice latte art!
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My Parents have always supported me and instilled into me from an early age to do something I enjoy. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am now. If you aren’t enjoying something, either find the reason why and try to make it enjoyable or just discontinue what you’re doing.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
One of my tutors, Paul Becker, taught us Samuel Beckett’s quote, “Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better”. I think this will stick with me forever.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I think its paramount to be involved in some kind of art community, especially as a young contemporary. Feedback from my peers gets me through some hard times! The ability to be able to pitch ideas to friends, sound stuff out and vise versa. To give feedback to friends about their ideas and practice keeps the community strong. My girlfriend is also an artist and she’s always there to help me and point me in the right direction.
However, I think it’s also key to find yourself, have time to think and get into your own thoughts. Getting out the bubble from time to time is refreshing.
What is your studio like?
I’m part of a collective studio at The Newbridge Project. It’s a programme that lasts a year and helps bring together creatives from all different backgrounds and helps provide opportunities. I have my own studio which is lush after coming out of cramped Uni studios. Lighting isn’t great as there are no windows but it’s very warm and big enough to fulfill my needs.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
NTS radio is always on! Charlie Bones’ Do You Breakfast Show is a must!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I think it was highly significant in giving me the opportunity and time to work solely on art for four years. The tutors were fantastic and helped push myself and my practice. Having art history attached to my course as well helped me learn more about the past and what our role is now as an artist. I also did a stint studying at Funen Art Academy in Denmark for five months. Getting out of Newcastle for a bit and discovering how another art community works in another country was highly beneficial to me. I’ve met so many great people from Newcastle and Denmark that now form the base for my network. It is something I definitely don’t regret. It’s difficult to adjust to life after Uni but the best way to learn is to jump in the deep end. Finding out that everything takes a lot longer and failing hurts more.
I haven’t decided on whether I will peruse an MA. I wanted a bit of time outside of education which I also think is vital. To try and figure out the art world without the safety net of University.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The anxiety of my art career failing and not really knowing what to do instead is a big one. Obviously money always lingers at the back of your mind. I think just being able to sustain myself and to continue making whilst overcoming hidden challenges along the way.
How would you define “success” in art?
To be able to create and make art without constraints. Whether that is actually possible I don’t know!
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I recently just had my first solo show in Newcastle at 36 Gallery. It was a great opportunity to get my work out my studio and have a lot of freedom after Uni in terms of what I wanted to make and how the show would look. It was ace to contribute to the Newcastle art scene as well, having my first solo show here made it that little bit special.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I mentioned before the collective studio. We recently just made an Instagram and have some big ideas on the horizon so keep you eyes peeled! instagram.com/collectivestudionbp
What are you working on right now?
Going to add and build on my visual archive and then start planning some new paintings. Also applications! I definitely benefit from having some sort of deadline.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for being such a great platform for young artists!!
Find more jackconnorkemp.com and on Instagram @jackkemp_!
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