As part of the Letchworth Open, curator Kris Day will be shining a spotlight on some of the creative people working in and around the town today with our new series ‘Artist in Focus’. First up is painter Stuart Jones, a member of Digswell Studios in Letchworth. Kris talked to Stuart about his work, life and how he keeps creative during the lockdown:
KD - Could you tell us a bit about yourself - how long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
SJ - I studied Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan University. I have been practicing as an artist for over 20 years.
KD - What does your work aim to say?
SJ - The aim of my work is to explore the reality within environments and our relationship with them. I am intrigued by places and spaces that exist within our lives and ideas around natural disasters, climate change and current social and political issues. I explore our relationships and connections with the landscape and how this is consistently in flux. We are increasingly disconnected from our environment due to technological advancement and in a consistent conflict with the natural world due to the way we live. I approach my work with these ideas and thoughts with the hope that they gain traction in the spaces in the work. The human presence is missing from my paintings enabling the viewer to become the missing human presence, the spaces becoming portals that the viewer has to negotiate into another world, space or time.
KD - Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine at the moment? How is this different to your pre-lockdown practice?
SJ - Due to lockdown I cannot access my Digswell Arts studio so I have relocated my studio to the shed in my garden. I have less time in the studio at the moment due to home schooling my kids, this has changed the way I usually work. I have been doing a lot more drawing and sketching with my kids as part of their art lessons and taking a lot of walks in nature with them. At the moment when I do get some time in the studio to help get in the zone and clear my head the first thing I do is to write morning pages, basically a diary where I scribble down all the thoughts, things to do etc that are on my mind and try and ‘clear out’ all the day to day stuff from my head to free my mind to be creative. I have been working on smaller drawings and paintings due to having less space and time but this has been really useful as it’s forced me to work faster and complete work in a day rather than spending months on a large painting. This has enabled me to experiment more and work through ideas at a faster rate but also just enjoy the process of art making. I also have been experimenting with using different paper surfaces and sizes because I have no large canvases stretched at the moment.
KD - Who are your biggest influences?
SJ - My biggest influences historically are JMW Turner, John Martin and Casper David Friedrich and within the contemporary art world they are Anselm Kiefer, John Virtue, Ian Murphy, Adam Lee, Julie Mehretu and Mark Bradford.
KD - What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
SJ - It was the retrospective of Frank Bowling’s work at the Tate Britain last year. It resonated due to the way he pushes the possibilities of paint through his use of pouring, staining, stencils, use of colour and layering. Also just the scale and ambition of his work.
KD - We’re living through challenging times, why do you think its important to keep making art?
SJ - Art makes us stop, reflect and think. This is a rare opportunity for us all to do that in order to reconsider and rethink how we live and work. Also the act of making art or creating is a way of being in the moment a kind of mindfulness a way of slowing down and also it can be a kind of therapy.
KD - Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
SJ - I currently have paintings in an online group show. The exhibition is called (Far from the)Turmoil. The exhibition features a selected line up of painters and installation artists. You can access the exhibition here. When I return to my Digswell studio I will continue working on a series of paintings for a solo show at the Broadway Gallery when it reopens.