All we have left is an illusion.
Leah Bartlett & Hannah Phillips interviewed Jay Chesterman on his most recent exhibition at Existential House over a series of conversations.
Q. What does art mean to you?
A. “Being an artist, art becomes your life. To me it's a fulfilling lifestyle that informs a personalised outlook, fuelled by constant analysis, evoking every last thing from you, which makes it hard to separate from 'life'.
By making art, I've realised that artworks are mere vehicles into an entity somewhere else mentally perhaps, or at least, I hope. I believe it's the artist job to create vessels informed by their experience that self-constructs their visual language that transmits emotional reactions.
I believe the best art stimulates your intellectual and emotional capacities the longest, which is what I strive to do with my practice.”
Q. Since doing the exhibition has doing 3D work changed or influenced your practice?
A. “Yes it has, I do have ambitions to exhibit more 3d works in the future exhibitions. Primarily my practice is painting however I have made a small amount of 3d installations (back during my degree), and I do treat the 3d medium as another means to explore concepts of reality. Interestingly, I feel that there is a conflicting relationship between painting and 3d because they do exist in two different realities, but when they're put together it profits both mediums, yet I never met the right opportunity to exhibit both works together.
I saw the exhibition at Existential House as an opportunity to work in 3d, initially from a physical perspective relating to what the space offered scale wise. I had an intuition that making an artwork in there that the scale was important whatever I made.
I experienced the space throughout its construction seeing it transform into a space that felt raw, and that rawness to me translated into an aesthetic for the 3d installation 'Outerman - a basic bubble machine’. When Stephen told me about his ambitions for the type of artworks for his space, I was completely on board and keen to see if I could make a conceptually challenging work cohesive to my paintings. The development of 'Outerman' came from constant critical review sessions with Stephen developing ideas collaboratively which was a truly enriching experience. I wanted to open the gallery and set a benchmark for following artists.”
Q. Aside from Jean Baudrillard is there any other inspirations for this exhibition?
“Yes, the work 'Outerman - a basic bubble machine' was inspired by Damien Hirsts 'A Thousand Years'. Me and Ste went to his 2012 retrospective exhibition at Tate modern, where I first encountered this piece. I found the activeness mesmeric and the overall experience profound. That experience was definitely within my psyche when creating my installation.
'Woolwich 2013' was inspired by footage of a terrorist attack captured on a mobile phone camera. I was interested more in the documentation of this event rather than the content, so I explored a painting process that introduced a digital characteristics like distortion and saturation, inspired by painters such as: Daniel Richter, Norbit Bisky, Adrian Ghene.”
Q. Do you feel 3D work or painting better represents your inspirations?
A. “I believe that both mediums have the potential to represent ideas of reality cooperatively. For example, when I make a painting, there is a certain reality within that painting and the work has a purpose to be specific to that 2d reality. The same goes for 3d works, it will then exist significantly in our reality, but I do find an interest in exploring this difference and colliding them as a way of criticising our reality.”
Q. How do you adapt your painting & practice to the ever-adapting social media?
A. “In my painting practice I collect second-hand imagery that I discover on the internet and social media platforms. The type of imagery I collect is dependent upon what I believe is culturally relevant and the visual potential it has. I’m interested in how content trends, so If I notice something trending, I’m keen to produce paintings that comments upon that content.
I suppose that my adapting to social media depends on what content I choose to source and how I edit it to become a piece of social commentary. I make groups of paintings in different series, so an example of my painterly adaption would be my 'insta-glam' series and my 'Rembrandt series. They differ visually because they're commenting on different things however both making statements on 'contemporary portraiture'. Essentially, I appropriate necessary techniques to transmit certain concepts.”
Q. Is your view on social media positive or negative?
A. “I suppose in the future we will all find out the true answer to that question. Right now, it exists in an interesting space between simulation and reality as Jean Baudrillard would say 'hyperreality' that interests me, and I can only document and make commentary on the happening of my lifetime from a neutral standpoint.”
Q. Would your outlook still be the same if the world was less reliant on social media?
A. “The reliance of social media to the world, is an interesting aspect, regarding our need for simulation. I'm interested in our reality being simulated, right now in our modernity it is the most popular platform for simulation, maybe if I was born 30years prior I would be interested in TV and would make works based on that? It’s interesting how we have evolved to be captivated, as we move towards the future, I can only see more of our reality will be simulated.”
Q. Although it was not intentional do you think the bubble machine breaking changed the meaning of the piece?
A. “Yes, I do, I was always aware that there could be technical issues when dealing with fluids and electronics, and when the machine did break it was at that point it felt like a performance. I had the spare fuse to simply fix the machine but made the conscious choice to leave it in exile, as a moment in the past. Prior to making the installation I wrote an artist statement for the exhibition saying '…the biggest comment on the speed of something is when it is stopped'. Even though the breakage wasn’t planned, it seemingly fitted in with my words.”
Q. Could you explain the significance of the painting and its position within the exhibition.
A. “The painting 'Woolwhich' 2013, is a painting based on video footage captured on a bystander phone, moments after a terrorist attack. The painting depicts a distorted interpretation of the scene and the attacker.
I painted the 'Woolwhich 2013' series in 2014 due to my fascination in public recording. I remember during that time the story became ubiquitous and charged with such emotional turmoil to the public and proving to be a powerful occasion to myself.
However just like most of the content from the news, as time went by the story seemed to have come and gone. It's this ephemerality that consumes our experience and defines our modernity. Constant information outlets that formatively spout new information distorts our ability to perceive reality, which 'Outerman - a basic bubble machine' was veering towards conceptually. Both works where cohesive to a concept just being expressed in different ways.
The painting was placed in an unconventional space high on the wall, as a way to comment curatorially on the idea of this content being in the past, (physically far away) so it wasn’t experienced clearly right in our imminent line of sight.”
Q. Why did you include the book within the installation?
A. “The inclusion of Jean Baudrillard’s simulacra and simulation was included into the installation in the final moments of the set up. Once the structure was built and the bubble machine installed, it was evident that the machine needed to be propped up at a certain angle to make the bubbles form successfully. I liked the idea of this book of such powerful wisdom and philosophy so significant to our modernity, functioning as a mere prop tool for a metaphorical performance making commentary on his concepts. It felt like a discourtesy towards 'information' and a homage to Jean Baudrillard in the same action, or vice versa.”