birds and bees

Had a bit of fun on my Fine Art course by fabricating an interview with a mythical art magazine. This was written some time ago. Some of the opinions I still hold about art in general. Some I’ve changed my mind about.

Bee (2009)

Bee (2009)

The following is the transcript of an interview between the artist Rob Johnsey and Art Magazine.

Interviewer

Mr Johnsey, congratulations on your first one man show at the Lime Street Gallery. I’d like to ask you a few questions about your work for Art Magazine.

Firstly, you have exhibited both sculpture and prints. Do you see a connection between these two areas of work?

Rob Johnsey

I find it quite difficult to connect the two kinds of work although I feel there ought to be a connection in there somewhere. It’s almost easier to point out the differences. My prints tend to be figurative while my sculptures are both organic in form and geometric. I do find that when I spend a few months producing three dimensional work my mind becomes tuned into the three dimensional world around me – I search out sculptural forms in the street and in galleries etc. When I am focused on two-dimensional work it’s the other way round. I find that working in 3D is an antidote to too much time spent in 2D and vice versa.

Interviewer

Tell me something about the subject matter that you have used in your print work. It seems to encompass a broad spectrum and yet be different to that used in your sculptures.

RJ

I started exploring the use of mezzotint about a year ago and was surprised to find that the medium began to dictate the subject matter. I used still life, the figure, dreamscapes and the depiction of imaginary worlds. Mezzotints contain a lot of black ink and generally lend themselves to a particular type of image – those that are often mysterious and dimly lit. At the same time they present a great opportunity to explore the contrasts of light and dark. So I found myself looking for subjects which suited the medium such as cloudscapes, the waves on the sea, dark interiors with light streaming in through a window and figures with strong side lighting.

All this proved quite a relief to me. As an artist I have struggled with finding appropriate subject matter. Now, I find myself fitting a range of subjects to a medium, albeit a rather restricted one.

Interviewer

What do you mean by a restrictive medium?

RJ

Well, mezzotint allows me to use only black and white, is limited in scale and the painstaking burnishing and scraping of the copper plate is an obvious limiting factor – unlike, say, oil painting when so many more possibilities present themselves.

Interviewer

Tell me something about the more recent images you have produced. These appear to be quite otherworldly. What are they about?

RJ

These are imaginary landscapes which began as sketches made from ordinary things around me. “Bee” for instance began as a drawing of holes made by an insect in the sand. The planetary form, however, came from the feeling that the mezzotint begins with a black void like outer space from which light has to be conjured. The insect was added to provide scale and a focus for the image.

Bee (2009)

Bee (2009)

Having said all that, I would much prefer the viewer to put their own interpretation on works like this. The truth is I am not sure myself why this whole image came into being and ultimately I would like to provide a mystery that others might solve. It’s part of what I consider to be good art – something which provides a lasting interest.

Interviewer

I’d like to come back to what you consider to be an effective work of art later, but can we just explore this desire of yours to create mystery scenarios? Is this possibly the connection with your sculpture that you are looking for?

RJ

It is true that my sculptural work is driven by a desire to create forms which have never been seen before. There is a sense of mystery involved but really I think the work is about organic forms, pattern, geometry and exploration. Most of my sculptures are built up from smaller units, often obeying a simple rule. In this way they resemble work by Sol LeWitt who explored the effects of making drawings to set rules.

DSCN3508

One of the aspects I enjoy about my 3D work is the constantly changing two dimensional views one can get from a three dimensional piece. It’s almost like being able to take a hundred different graphic photographs of the same article just by changing one’s viewpoint. The play of light and shadow on a three dimensional object is also attractive and perhaps this is what I enjoy exploring in my graphic prints.

Interviewer

You mention Sol LeWitt as an influence on your work. Which other artists are you attracted too and have provided an influence on your work?

RJ

The list of sculptors is a long one but Henry Moore for his use of grand scale in his organic figures, Eduardo Paolozzi for his split plaster heads and use of machine parts and David Nash for his bold, rough wood forms. Steve Dilworth is a contemporary sculptor working in Scotland who often produces magical forms incorporating animal skeletons and other organic materials.

In two dimensions Gauguin’s mysterious woodcuts made in Tahiti, and Henri Rouseau’s primitive dreamlike paintings. More recently I have been looking at Goya’s small etchings depicting the atrocities of war. These have taught me that images can be both shocking and beautiful at the same time.

Contemporary mezzotint artists such as Marina Kim and Cleo Wilkinson both exploit light and shade on the human form and have had an impact upon my current work .

Interviewer

Returning to your ideas about good art, the kind of art you would aspire to. What would this be like?

RJ

I believe that contemporary art should firstly be exploring unknown territory. It should be pushing boundaries and not reproducing stuff that has already been done. I like the idea of the artist as researcher. This really puts the onus on the artist to be aware of what has gone on before in his particular field in order to avoid reinventing an artistic “wheel”.

Secondly my kind of art should have visual impact, this being achieved through strong composition, contrasts of tone, use of colour and repetition. The sort of art I want to see should still have interest for the viewer months after the first viewing. It should have an enduring and perhaps arresting appeal. It’s too easy to glance at a piece and move on and forget what you have seen. It’s nice if there is an element of mystery or puzzlement about the work which keeps the viewer guessing at its meaning or at least offering their own interpretation.

Interviewer

Perhaps you could summarise the ideas we have been discussing by saying how your work might develop in the future.

RJ

In the future I want to work both in 3D and 2D on making striking visual images that encourage the viewer to ask questions. These images should reveal new visual ideas. I don’t deal in the big conceptual ideas such as those found in, for instance, politics, religion or environmental debates. I want to research new forms that are connected to human imagination and dreams.

With this in mind, in my print work, I want to combine an interest in depicting the human form but placing those forms in imaginary landscapes.

In sculpture I am developing an interest in placing unusual forms in the natural landscape such as a garden or a park and this is perhaps where my work will be going next.

Interviewer

Thank you Mr Johnsey, you have given us an interesting insight into your current work. May I wish you all the best for the future.

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