i was very lucky to meet jason andrew turner a few months ago through our mutual friend felipe (tipi thieves). there's an interesting synergy between our career paths; jason has also worked in the fashion industry for a while, doing color for anthropologie before moving to brooklyn this year. as a visual artist, jason creates abstract drawings that beautifully strike a balance between the serious and the humorous. we sat down a few weeks ago at jason's studio to chat about his large body of work as well as his inspiring dedication to his craft. i would love to organize jason's first presentation of his work in new york!
more about jason below:
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
jason turner: i’m from birmingham, alabama originally and moved around quite a bit when i was younger. i spent my most of my formative years in a small village outside of cambridge, england before moving back to birmingham to finish up high school. i gained my bfa at savannah college of art and design. after college, on a whim, i moved to philadelphia, pa. i heard of their encouraging and totally weirdo art scene accidentally stayed there for 9 years. while there i also worked as a color designer for the apparel company anthropologie for several years, moonlighting a career in art as well. philadelphia is an amazing city and really gave me the chance to hone my aesthetic and force a lot of honesty into my work. a few months ago i made the move to brooklyn, resting my head in boerum hill and working out of a studio in bushwick.
cultureisland: tell us more about your art.
jason turner: i predominately make drawings on paper, but work in a number of mediums. currently my primary focus are line based “landscapes” that i started making around 2010 and have evolved to what they are now. i use graphite, ink, and gouache in a very methodical process based manner, but also reliant on a more intuitive aesthetic play. i also make intimate portraits of people that don’t exist (and those that do), as well as more playful though ambiguous illustrative work.
cultureisland: what is your creative process? what led you to select drawing as a medium?
jason turner: i’m perpetually stuck between over thinking how ridiculous it is to make art or being totally stoked that i’m doing the same marks for 10 hours. so basically everyday is an adventure! i keep about 3 separate sketchbooks going at any given time, so i use those to work out ideas regardless if it comes to fruition in my studio. i have no idea what life would be like without a sketchbook, and urge everyone in the world to keep one, artist or not.
i bounce around a lot in my studio, always working on a number of things at various stages of seriousness. if i’m getting bogged down at my drawing table i’ll get on the floor to cut up scrap paper and spray paint on a collage. if that gets too loose (or my lungs start hurting) i’ll move to the wall and work on something there. i think this way of working bridges the different lines of thought and dialog i’m having with myself at different levels of gravity. despite my diligence with a sketch book, i tend not to lay out or plan the bulk of my drawings, letting them come more intuitively. at times i will work from a thumbnail, but more often times the narrative will be with me and i will build the story from there with each gestural line.
when i first moved to philadelphia, my work was a continuation of what i was creating in college; mostly figurative large scale oil paintings that were colorful, expressive, and full of angst. after a while i was exhausted of making this work and needed to take a step back. i always made drawings, but they were always for a different purpose, and i never thought anything past that. so i started playing around, making drawings and grinding down graphite to use it like paint. my studio mates at the time were like “where the hell did this come from? make more!” and were super encouraging, so i kept at it. in the beginning my drawings were very representational and slowly over time i became more and more deconstructed in form and in mark making. it all happened very fluidly and evolved to a more minimal but busy place.
cultureisland: tell us more about your factory drawings, landscapes and gravestones. what do they each represent?
jason turner: i started the factory drawings as color studies for fashion color palettes, balancing out the way i wanted to use the colors within a collection. the factories, are a direct result of my conflicting feelings on the industrial complex that is consumer fashion. i mean, it's pretty gross if you really get to the brass tax of it. not only are the people making the clothes overseas, more often than not taken advantage of, but the consumerist blindness of origin, pollutants, and cost can be really soul sucking when you’re looking from the inside out. so my drawings became a way to look at that duality, beautiful colors arranged in a thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing way, to make a woman feel beautiful, and the ugliness of its production, and consequences on community.
the landscapes became about dismantling form and narrative from traditional landscapes. the subject matter is typically rooted in larger social narratives that are playing out in the world, mixed with my own fictional narratives. for me there is a very straight forward story line with a cast of characters, and location focal points, but they all exist in a space that is free from time. it's almost as though i approach them as a set maker; including all the information of the environment and its “props”, but excluding any stage direction. what happens in this invented landscape is decided by the viewers participation within the space to discover their own narrative. for instance, when you walk out onto the street you’re not seeing the same street scene as someone that was standing in the exact place 1 minute before. basically, they’re as much about the space between the dense lines as they are about the lines themselves.
my gravestones are very simple and totally became part of my practice by accident. i make them in waves, typically when something happens in the world and i’m prompted by the medias reaction to it. i can look at each graveyard scene and tell you exactly what happened in the news that week. i then fill the balance of stones with mortality jokes. i’ve always loved word play, so these are my way of taking the piss of death. nothing gets me down!
cultureisland: where do you find inspiration?
jason turner: oh geez, i find inspiration literally everywhere. i think conversation with friends or strangers or even general people watching can help you look through the eyes of others and reconsider view points, to help see less narrow views of things. i take a lot of pictures on the street of useless things that i may or may not ever look at again, but i basically just look around a lot and try and listen and be open to new things at all times.
cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?
jason turner: i’m always listening to a lot different things, it really depends on my mood or what i’m doing. lately in the studio i’ve been playing a lot of the make up, can, les rallizes dénudés, and joan of arc. the new unknown mortal orchestra record “multi love” is pretty on point too!
cultureisland: have you watched anything interesting lately?
jason turner: ex machina was amazing, i really can’t give it enough praise right now. i’m also obsessed with the bbc4 series “what do artists do all day” -- really interesting 30 minute docs about a wide range of artists and their practices in a very casual manner (and they’re all on youtube!)