Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Philly Art Jawn is pleased to introduce our featured artist of the month, Jason Andrew Turner!
Check out the interview below to learn more about our featured artist of the month:
Q: How did your time spent in Philadelphia influence your development as an artist?
A: I went to Philadelphia in early 2006 after graduating and from Savannah College of Art and Design and aimlessly loafing around Savannah for a few months. Often if you graduate with a bachelors in painting, the expectation in the industry is that you promptly attend graduate school. With a pile of debt on my back I didn’t want to add to the weight. I knew a couple of people in philly and moved on a whim. I bopped around, painting small things in a studio apartment, and showing them in coffee shops. Within a year I had wormed my way into a shared warehouse space (the compound) with a bunch of other like minded weirdos. The space was a quintessential DIY warehouse in the Eraserhead neighborhood (I don’t know what they’re calling it now) surrounded by abandoned buildings, smoke stacks, graffiti, and trash. I can probably link Philadelphia’s influence in my work to that space specifically. There, I went from frenetic oil paintings, to a more drawing focused practice, where the lines of the city structured themselves onto paper. I also never expected or intended to become a muralist! Philly is covered in paint, and am overwhelming honored to have work on its walls.
Q: I've noticed that your latest works incorporate the use of sumi ink. What drew you to working with this new medium?
A: Actually, sumi ink has been a bit of a staple in my toolbox for about a decade. I was drawn to it for its materiality in addition to its history. It has such a lovely viscosity, a sludgy pool of black that sits nicely on any surface and I’ve got a pretty good handle on it now. It dries mostly matte although adds a little bit of shine where it pools in inky globs, this adds a bit of otherworldly contradiction to a mostly flat focus in my paintings. From its origins, ink was used to draw animals on the insides of caves, and has since developed into the printing of books and your daily news paper among other things. I’m interested in this communicative history of abstract ideas, like the the contours of beasts and the wonder of language, sumi ink captures the essence of magic.
Q: How has COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
A: Well, I lost a couple projects pretty quickly. I am very lucky to have a studio in my home, so in terms of day to day making, there have been relatively few speed bumps. It’s been helpful that I’m able to drop out and fall into my practice, so I’ve been able to maintain productivity. However, a lot of my thoughts and sketchbooks are developed and organized outside of my studio so that has been a hurdle. Since we began shelter in place, like many of us, I have been feeling pent up energy and claustrophobia, which is evident in my most recent series of work. Whats most interesting to me is that isolation is common symptom in art marking, perhaps our shared shelter helps the viewer identify with that work more clearly, perhaps we all just need the escape. That why art can be such an amazing unifier, especially in this moment when we are all sharing a lot of the same emotions.
Q: What do you think art will look like once we re-emerge from isolation?
A: I’ve been reading a lot about this lately. There is a lot of very interesting speculating by intelligent people, but I’m not sure I have the authority to dictate how the art world will be affected in the broad sense. Structurally I think we will see the industry shift immensely, at least at first. Considering that galleries and museums are enclosed public spaces, I’m really not sure what happens next. We’ve already seen how those institutions have pushed online exhibitions and gallery tours and i think that will continue (I will be in one in the fall in fact). the way we consume art digitally will only intensify, which unfortunately removes a lot of context of physical artworks, such scale, surface, etc. However, when the museums do open up again, maybe I can actually get close to some of the master paintings the tourist flock around in the MOMA.
Of course my real hope is that, with everyone stuck at home, people will realize they need more art on their walls! Much of my income comes from larger commissions, mostly private, and some public works. I believe there is a real opportunity around public works at this time, as so many of our indoor activities have become limited, it is a way to speak to and speak for communities. My feelings are that Philadelphia already has quite the leg up on this, with a circle of artists poised to create powerful work. Unfortunately, Mayor Kenney just scrapped the office of arts, culture, and creative economy, as well as other major city art funds, so we will have to wait and see how that metastasizes. Arts budgets are commonly the first to go, I think this is generally a mistake. Never forget the roll artists played in the WPA to pull the country out of the Great Depression.
Thank you for sharing with us, Jason Andrew Turner!