Interview with JKB Fletcher

Plus One Gallery
Feb 9, 2017 11:37AM

The Icelandic Ocean, 151 x 150 cm,  Oil on canvas 

When did you become interested in Hyperrealism? How long have you been a hyperrealist artist?

I rather refer to myself as an artist interested in hyperrealism than a hyperrealist artist. I have always been interested in painting, but it was in Uni I developed a keen interest in photorealism and the complete mastery and discipline some artists could display. I actually don’t like most photorealism or hyperrealism works, however, I have a huge admiration for the discipline and concentration which goes into making these works. The issue, I think, is most of the paintings are happy not to address, or are unaware of, their pointlessness. I have recently become more interested in representational painting once I realised that the act of turning a photo into a painting is meaningless, this intrigues me and gives me reason to believe there is room to push the subject further.

 What brought you to Plus One Gallery?

 My friend Dan Smith who was working with Plus One at the time recommended me to them. They are a gallery that has stood the test of time, have dealt with some quality works and artists and I really enjoyed their book Exactitude; so, when they got in touch I was eager to join.

 What’s integral to the work of an artist?

 All my favourite artworks display an ability to both represent the time and milieu the work was made and the values of the artist who made it; without making direct reference to either.

Who is your favourite artist?

 I have no way to answer this permanently, but currently I am buried in works by Rothko, Richter and Reyle.

Always, 150 x 150 cm,  Oil on canvas 

The majority of your paintings tend to be painted on a square canvas’, what is it about this format that appeals to you?

I have a way of making rules for myself, like borders or parameters to work within; square canvases was one of the first. I started painting on square canvases as a necessity through university. They were a way to tie the works I painted together as they were all the same size, this meant I could paint cars, fish, household objects and skin, and the works would still relate to each other. Over time I found rules in the subjects I chose to paint, as well as the things I painted on, and this freed me up to paint on other formats other than a square. Now I am more likely to choose a composition for the image rather than an image for the composition but I feel very comfortable working on a square format.

 The square cropping of a scene or image is now something we have become a custom to because of Instagram. Is this something you considered whilst creating your works?

I actually started it a few years before Instagram existed, but I later realised the relation between the visual link and I decided to make series of work based on images I found from the platform. I would find images that were trending at the time, like the ‘selfie’ the ‘duck mouth’ the ‘hot-dog legs’ etc. and I would turn them into paintings.

 As a painter of realist images I would, as I’m sure most realist painters do, ask myself ‘why turn it into a painting?’ If an image works why then would you bother making it into a painting? The Instagram series was a way for me to look into that question further… I would take an image that was meant for a screen a few centimetres in width and height and make it almost a meter square. An image that was snapped at low-res and meant to be looked at for a few seconds then scrolled past, turned into something that took a hundred hours to complete and then hung on a white wall for weeks. We know if a painting is looked after it can last 800 years but no one is sure as to the safety and lifespan of these digital files on the servers that provide the life of these digital platforms. And finally, there was only one place you could see the painting at a time, when you were stood in front of it, whereas the images you found on Instagram could be found at any point no matter where you were just by a quick ‘search’. I found these things to be hugely influential to my art practice and even though I have no immediate plans to work any further on the Instagram series its effects continue to influence my current works.

 How do you think apps such as Instagram have affected the creation and interaction of artworks, especially your own?

 I really like some of these digital platforms and I would say Instagram is my favourite. I love how accessible the visuals are, with as little as two clicks I can be scrolling through a wall of images from sources I have chosen to follow. But I am also very aware of the fact that it is a separate thing to that of viewing artwork. I love that I can see what artist are up to and what a piece of their work may look like, but I know first-hand that being in front of a painting and looking at it on the computer or phone can hardly be considered the same experience. I could for example post a photograph posing it as a painting and people would react the same as if I had posted an image of a painting, because in reality there is no difference between the two when your only access to the work is through a digital device like that of your phone, you’re still just staring at your phone. Some artists are aware of this and in response use their Instagram as a tool to make artworks, or as a way to further push their ideas, others use it to document their practice. I think both are great uses of the platform but ultimately show how important documentation is overall.

Wrest149 x 150 cm, Oil on canvas

u have recently started painting an ‘Earth Series’ depicting landscape, can you explain this move and how your painting will develop in the future

 My works are made with my situation in mind, what I like, where I’m from, where I am. The ‘Earth Series’ started by taking these literally as a base to start work. The photographs I paint from are all photos I have taken on my travels or from where I have worked or lived. Each of the paintings display very specific places on the planet yet just by looking at them it would be very hard to tell where they are. I think I did this at first unconsciously aware of the fact that I found comfort in seeing the sky, the water and the ground even so far away from what I considered home. No matter where I was I could photograph one or more of these subjects. This series is still in its early stages but has taken my full attention as it seems to have a lot of scope in other mediums as well as painting. The seasonal aspect of nature appeals to my daily routines and the detail in the images exercises my desire for challenges and at the same time a ‘hard work’ ethic that I often look for to justify the effort… It’s hard to say where the work will develop in the future but it is something I am looking forward to working on further.

  You have recently started to work on drawings. What is it that drawing can offer that painting can’t?

 When the ideas from the ‘Earth Series’ spread into other mediums; drawing and sculpture both seemed to lend itself to the ideas behind the works. With drawing I find the act to be more deliberate and final to that of a painting, there are no layers to build or colours to mix but just one tool striking across the surface caving a meaning into an otherwise meaningless piece of paper. I also find it easier to leave edges of the paper unfinished, something I have considered but never done with a painting, maybe this is because the drawings are quicker to make but this has meant that the drawings have offered something quite freeing to my art practice.

 Your paintings are all within series, for example ‘Flesh’ and ‘Earth’. Is your intention for these artworks to be viewed together as a set?

 No, it’s about the rules I make for myself, the boundaries I work and think within while making artworks. I like the idea of having a series shown together and I have done this in the past but hanging Flesh, Pixel or Earth works together isn’t something I would avoid, in fact I think it can only help to better understand the work and the motives.

Viridian, 183 x 183 cm, Oil on linen         

How do you choose your subject matter, what is it that inspires?

 I have a kind of checklist that I use before I start the work itself, things like ‘is it minimal in nature, organic, does it have an ambiguous quality etc.?’ But the ideas for the work happen as I work; I sketch the ideas down and I choose the ones that make the most sense to me when I am ready to start.

Your compositions are heavily cropped and so focus on small parts of a bigger picture. Why is this?

This stems from a love of minimalism, I prefer there to be just one subject in the image as most of the work I make isn’t about the subject I’m painting but the painting I have made when it is finished. I find one of the distractions to realist paintings to be, for example, that the landscape or face that is depicted are often a huge distraction from the painting itself, and the minimal, ambiguous imagery I choose is in response to this, in the hope to avoid it in my work.

If your audience could know one thing about your work or your practice, what would it be?

As mentioned earlier, my works are made with my own situation in mind, what I like, where I’m from and where I am. I suppose in the most obvious sense of attaching concepts to meaning I would have to say that I make work driven by the question ‘why bother turning it into a painting?’ If they ask this question to one of my works considering my inclination towards routine, minimal aesthetics and a disciplined practice, then perhaps they will find a reason why I make the work I make.

Plus One Gallery