Jesse Wine is one of the participating artists in British Art Show 8 which opened initially in Leeds in October 2015 and will go on to travel around the country to Edinburgh, Norwich and Southampton before closing in 2017. The following conversation took place over a number of weeks between the artist and Corridor8 editor James Schofield via email following the opening of the exhibition.
[C8] So Jesse, firstly thanks for taking the time and agreeing to do this with us. Just a few fairly straightforward questions right off the bat to get past any awkwardness that the format may cause.
You’ve had a big few years with residencies and solo and group shows around the world including places like Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, mainland Europe and all over the UK, with an upcoming solo show this year at Gemeentemuseum in the Netherlands. Has the transition of showing your work in larger, institutionalised spaces (alongside continuing to show in smaller and independent spaces) felt like a natural progression, or are you still coming to terms with having the opportunities (and I guess budgets) to push your work in directions you may not have been able to before?
[JW] In many ways, it is natural, yes. This isn’t because I expected to be making shows in these spaces and was therefore prepared but more because I have imagined those opportunities and in turn, what you might do given those opportunities. Ultimately it’s about relaying what you have learned, trying to explain something. However when I actually came to making the exhibitions, The BALTIC for example, I realised something I couldn’t have imagined, which is that a large percentage of the audience was made up of school children. In light of this I produced a show that I intended to communicate with this part of the audience first and foremost, using oversized puppet-like hanging figures.
[C8] I guess to a large extent it is totally reactionary to the individual space and other contextual elements such as visitor demographics, but do you enjoy adapting your work to engage with specific nuances like that?
[JW] Definitely, I imagine it to be similar to verbal conversations. Showing in new spaces with new demographics is essentially the opportunity to learn new languages.
[C8] Looking at your practice broadly it seems that there’s also always an underlying aspect of playfulness and humour with regards to audience understanding and engagement. This is augmented with your control of the medium itself, with the viewer able to appreciate the jovial qualities at the same time as easily discerning the physical exertions you have enacted over each individual piece, and even being able to link them to a wider conversation with art historical subjects.
These exertions though…the marks and traces made by your intervention and interaction with the material and subsequent glazes that are applied to the resulting forms, are they the main reason that ceramics have remained the primary medium in your practice? Because of the medium’s inherent responsiveness and potential unpredictability?
[JW] I think clay is an emotional material, it responds to your mood, feelings and reflects them in your application. Clay is much like paint in this respect, responsive to the touch, every touch. So no matter how flat the prospect of working in one material may seem (and not even to the audience, I mean this more to the artist/maker) ultimately it is not, it is different and mysterious every single time, this is something I play up to by firing at various temperatures and mixing glazes that are true gambles, where I really do not know what the outcomes may be. This gives each work an independence and freedom as they are different from the next.
[C8] You’ve talked before about the meditative and almost therapeutic qualities time in your studio allows you…is it something that is heightened by the use of clay and the fact that the work you produce could be seen as a philosophical (even somewhat existential) cathartic response?
[JW] Yes. An example of the cathartic approach what I do outside of what you say above, which is accurate btw, is in the titling of works, such as Nice. Proper nice. Which came from a conversation about a new pair of trainers I heard someone in Rochdale having, I try to use localised language to pin down works that may be visually universal, almost as a trigger to remind myself and the audience where I come from and my approach to making in relation to this.
[C8] The way you talk about your practice seems very romacticised, and not at all in a twee or uncomfortable way…it seems more of an endearing quality to both you and it. Having been reading up on you in preparation for talking to you it also seems from the outside that your studio set up and project space at PLAZAPLAZA follows in a similarly romantic vein. Was setting up an independent communal space where you could produce work at the same time as displaying other artists’ work and exchanging ideas something that you’d envisioned once you’d left art school and were left to your own devices? Was there an effort on your part to try and continue that almost strangely unquantifiable alchemy that’s present in a university workspace?
[JW] It’s actually not a continuation of an academic feeling at all, the great difference is the urgency; the urgency to produce and communicate alongside existing as a person with a job that funds being an artist. I think you have to consciously undertake the role of the professional artist, that sounds really bureaucratic but in actuality it isn’t, what it means is that you generate enough direction, conviction and urgency to start making opportunities for yourself, a great way to do this is to start a project space. This way you are making your own stuff and helping others make their stuff too, this is a giant learning curve and also sociologically really important, what I gained through PLAZAPLAZA is a knowledge of personality in relation to product, various manifestations of this.
[C8] Recently you’ve also been involved in two projects, Tokyo Drift curated by Millington | Marriott with works by Jessica Mai Walker, Luke Overein and Alfie Strong, and a joint installation at Rise Projects alongside Nicolas Party. Both projects see your work move away (quite dramatically in the case of Tokyo Drift) from the confines of a white cube space…although you’ve expressed how the evolution of your practice into showing at those types of spaces has felt natural, do you feel your finished work and practice in general benefits from an openness to experimentation to showing in such markedly different environments and exhibition formats?
[JW] I think I work with a material that is quite easy to manipulate into various environments and settings that feel natural. Ceramics are used on the noses of space crafts for re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere- the material is truly amazing and I am exploring 1% of it! I am not interested in the arguments that ensue around the material, craft versus art and so on, I think they’re boring and unintelligent today. What I am interested in though, is good ideas, and working with these ideas to produce exhibitions. The MM show seemed genius to me because of it’s mobile-ness, this seems a much more relevant way to produce culture, to make the culture mobile itself and therefore we can bring it to people as opposed to hope that they will turn up to see it (let alone have a good experience with it). The Nicolas Party project was incredibly fun, essentially operating as a piece of theatre that Nicolas and I curated.
[C8] Moving forward this year with a relocation of yourself and your studio to New York, are you looking to immerse yourself in any particular aspect of the culture of the city and wider country to feed back into your work? Do you think basing your practice (potentially) permanently in an epicentre of the art world outside of London and the U.K. will cause you to approach any aspect of your creative process differently?
[JW] That’s pretty tough to answer, predicting future behaviours. What I can say is that I am looking forward to not knowing anyone! I plan to be quite low key and focus on new work, more ambitious work, larger scale in particular.
I am excited to leave London, I love it here and I want to leave whilst still in love with it. Ultimately, although London feels like home it’s not where I’m from and so to move again makes a lot of sense at this stage, to renew my daily routine and to see more of the world.
[C8] Totally, it’s always best to go out on a high! Hopefully the fresh backdrop and new faces will allow you to carry on and develop your practice even more than you have been able to up until this point.
Thanks again for taking the time out of your extremely busy schedule to have this rather elongated format of dialogue! Good luck with it all, and I look forward to seeing some of your new work in a few months once you’ve settled in stateside.
Image ‘Cultured’ 2015, Glazed Ceramic, 58 x 45 x 46 cm. Courtesy the artist and Thun Ceramic Residency.
Jesse’s work can be seen in British Art Show 8 at Inverleith House, Edinburgh from 13 February – 8 May 2016, with more information here:
More information on Jesse’s work including about upcoming shows can also be found at: