Artist Reece Jones was brought up in picturesque Norfolk, before studying for an MA at the Royal Academy Schools. His successes run from helping set up the project space Rockwell in Hackney, which ran until 2005 and showed the work of more than 120 artists to catching the eye of Charles Saatchi and teaching at the City & Guilds art school.
His new solo show, Control Test, opens next week at the impressive 5000 square foot space at All Visual Arts. Here he discusses his inspirations, process and who he admires.
What inspires you as an artist?
I look at a lot of stuff and I go to a lot of shows. Many of my friends are artists – good ones – and they inspire me.
What do you find interesting about working with charcoal and sandpaper?
Um… when you put it like that, not a lot really. I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that I’ve ever found charcoal interesting per se. I like the fact that it has traditional associations with preparatory work or easel painting and I enjoy contradicting that. I suppose I enjoy forcing it or coaxing it to do something that it’s not supposed to do – to make it behave in a particular way. Sanding down drawings and then re-building them eventually yields a dense tonal field, something quite authoritative and I like that. I like the fact that despite their materiality some of the works appear quite mechanical or robust. And I suppose that it’s fair to say I’ve become something of a dust fetishist over time.
Why do you think that you’re drawn to creating works in extreme scale – either very small or huge?
I think they’re just the size they need to be in order for them to work. Part of it is about subverting the traditional or craft elements, but basically it’s to do with trying to create a particular experience – whether that is one of emersion or intimacy.
How long does it take to create one piece?
It varies hugely. Sometimes it can take weeks just to get the ground work and preparatory stuff together or to get my head around an idea I might have. Once that’s all out of the way I tend to really go at it every waking hour and day until it’s done. They’ve taken anything between a couple of weeks and a couple of months. It’s always hard to predict and I almost always give myself a bit of a fright if there’s a deadline for a show coming up.
Your work is cinematic – are you interested in looking at the collision between art and film?
Film is a language we are all critically very fluent in and I think that affords image makers the opportunity to play around with tropes or to evoke particular atmospheres in the knowledge that narratives – albeit fragmented or abstracted – will be suggested. I like the fact that associations can be made between what I’m making and certain moments in cinema. But I’m especially excited by the fact that this is rarely a specific or direct reference, more a vague recollection of something. I’m especially interested in location and the way in which people like Tarkovsky use place as a metaphor for psychological states. Some of the drawings in my upcoming show are based loosely on locations from films like Night Of The Hunter or Mad Max.
The pieces seem to show a pre-occupation with light and its sources. What’s the inspiration behind this? And are you also drawn to photography?
The whole process of drawing and erasure evolved from making photo-real works. Having decided to abandon that as I felt hamstrung by it conceptually, I moved on and started to invent spaces and scenarios. But I wanted to retain that photo-representational attitude. Building the drawings is similar to processing photos (in the old school way, in a dark room) burning areas in and balancing tone or contrast. Many of my more recent works have quite an explicit (albeit unusual or unexplained) light source. It’s partly to do with the insertion of iconography or narrative elements to the work, but more formally it’s a way of manipulating the logic of the image.
What do you think of the current London art scene?
Art in London has a lot going for it – it always has. It’s a (predominantly) self sustaining, growth ‘industry’ (for want of a better word, which I think is often overlooked as a sort of cultural accessory or temporary trend. It has good art makers and commentators. It has a strong gallery network which seems increasingly to understand the value of having a public outlook and a dialogue with people other than collectors. There are opportunities for new artists and there are vital communities who support and sustain each other. The worth of London is without question as a cultural hub (among many). But I think that it’s important to remember that this didn’t happen overnight. It’s the by-product of artists, curators and gallerists who assimilated themselves with a rich creative heritage and were energetic innovators despite significant financial obstacles. I’m lucky to have a part to play in that.
The topography is constantly shifting too… I’m excited by the group of artists who have been working their socks off preparing a new project space in Brixton called Block 336. It’s stuff like this that reminds me what it’s all about.
How do you want your practice to develop?
I want it to develop honestly. One thing leads to another. Watch this space.
Which other artists do you admire?
The list is long, varied and shifting. I have different needs as an art maker, so when I’m thinking about my own work at the moment I’m thinking about great C20th modernists, land artists and the pioneering adventurers of the C19th American sublime. I really got off on recent shows by Robert Holyhead (at Karsten Schubert) Paul McCarthy (at Hauser & Wirth) and Matt Calderwood (at Wilkinson).
I admire my peers. I get to see their practices shift and to see first hand what it takes to do what they do. They challenge me and push me to think about my own practice while being generous with their own.
What next for you?
I have some ideas for some shows I’d like to do, there are a couple of group shows on the immediate horizon and I’m a guest selector for the Barbican Arts Group Trust annual Open Competition this summer. But before all of that I’m going to stand back and take a look at my show at All Visual Arts and have a long hard think about what I’ve done!
Reece Jones, Control Test, All Visual Arts, 2 Omega Place, Kings Cross, London, N1 9DR, 23rd March – 21st April.
By Loma-Ann Marks for Culture Compass