The second exhibit chosen by Mayor Don Firth for hanging in the window exhibition space at the Benalla Rural City Offices is a colourful yet contemplative work by Jamie Ferguson. On display for a month, Jamie's work will soon be changed over to highlight the work of another NEA artist.
If you visit the council offices, it's worth spending a moment viewing the artwork in the exhibition space just near the lift. Otherwise, the best viewing is at night when the exhibition space is lit up, highlighting the artwork from the street.
‘Where is Home’: Baddaginnie
Where would you most want to live and create/write etc? “Italy 1494 (Ficino & Botticelli my next door neighbours)”
Comfort food: ‘Cheese’
Artistic Influences: ‘My mother, my grandmother, Picasso, Surrealism, …’
Current reads/films/exhibitions attended: ‘Rilke’s poetry; Tsvetaeva, a Russian poet, to me the greatest poet of the twentieth century’…’An exhibition of lovely spiritualist style paintings in Violet Town’.
What are you working on at the moment? ‘A series of oil paintings with a simple, spiritual iconcography – ladders, Persian rugs, etc…’
Jamie Ferguson 'The Griffin (or Adam's Rib' (2018)
What was the first work you exhibited publically or sold as an artist?
‘In my 20’s, in Newcastle, some oil paintings at an exhibition’
How has your background influenced your creativity ?
‘My family influenced me a lot. Mum was a painter and I was the only child let into her studio. My grandmother had antiquarian books next to the old laundry shute, and we used to slide down the laundry shute amidst her antiquarian books.’
What’s the best part of being an artist?
‘The voyage of the soul – that sounds pretentious, but it activates the soul, and even though you can’t activate God, it tickles God’s nose a little bit’.
What’s the worst part of being an artist?
‘The best part is the letting go, but sometimes the conscious part of one self is impatient and and too harsh. Sometimes I end up in a creative quagmire, stuck, and the harder I try to let go, the more stuck I get’.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about your work?
‘The worst advice is when people push a conservatism upon it. It’s hard to say … it’s always from people with too conservative an eye. The best advice was from a fellow called Anton who had Downs’ Syndrome who said, ‘That’s bloody silly, Jamie, but I love it’”.
What’s been the most significant moment in your artistic/creative career so far?
“Finding ‘The Secret Life of Salvadore Dali’ on my Grandmother’s bookshelf when I was 14. She let me borrow it, too!”
What do you find most challenging about painting?
‘Going deep. It’s as if … beauty used to be locked behind many doors; going deep is obviously difficult, but not so much any more. You should see some of the Goya like work I did…’
When you’re struggling with a painting, where do you look for inspiration?
‘I just pause, empty my mind, begin again, anywhere on the canvas, with some faith…’
Who do you picture as the ideal viewer of your work?
‘A man– living or dead—filling with a thousand eyes my acreage of mind. And, if that’s not possible, a very small man with seventeen nostrils’
Whether creativity in different areas can be taught is often debated – what’s your view?
‘To say creativity can’t be taught would go down a fascist road, to say everybody should be taught creativity goes down another sort of totalitarian road. However I do believe in the Utopian view set forth by Charles Fowler that the world should be teeming with billions of poets happily drinking strawberry milk. Teaching art is problematic because it implies governance and bureaucracy, but yes, I do believe art can be taught’.
Where and when do you prefer to paint?
‘Any time, any where, without being rained on too much’.
What do you listen to when you work?
‘I’m generally sober and silent when I work – I come from the accountancy school of creativity. I don’t even mind people talking to me - I can switch off. Sometimes it’s hard to be interrupted and have to change a poo-ey nappie though’.
Do you buy your eg. art supplies online, in an art store, or both?
‘I inherited lots of art supplies, after 30 years I’m still using some. I use Louise and Jim’s shop in Benalla and I’m starting to use online more, but I always get tempted by antique paint boxes and antique paints. I even saw a jar of Mumme on E-Bay – 1700’s artists used to get sections of Egyptian mummies and mix it into their paints’.
What’s your advice for someone wanting to be an artisan in your field?
‘Throw away any pretence and just begin…’
When not painting , what do you like to do?
‘I love being with Abby and my kids and I love being with my friends. I love being by myself with bottle of red wine at midnight reading a book say, from the 1500’s… I love physical stuff, too, sex, lifting heavy rocks, etc...’
If you weren’t making or supplementing your living by being an artist, what would you be doing instead?
‘I’d be connected to a circus in some capacity’
If you could go out to dinner with any artist,, who would it be and why?
‘I would go to dinner with Hakuin, a Zen artist who I heard was a good cook and loved laughter’.
What’s the art work that’s had the most significant impact on your life and work or an artist– and why?
‘Surrealist art, because it reminds you of your liberty’.
Do you have a philosophy for how and why you create?
Not particularly. Honesty, maybe. Letting things speak that are sometimes silent’.
At the beginning of the interview you said you are currently working on‘A series of oil paintings with a simple, spiritual iconcography – ladders, Persian rugs, etc…’ What do you hope viewers will take away from this?
‘That something inside them is gently turned upside down’.
Jamie Ferguson, 'The Red Book' (2017) and 'Horosocope Muse' (2017)
Jamie was interviewed in quiet moments while on roster duty in the Gallery 1 at NEA in March, 2018, You can check out photos of Jamie’s work and studio photos on his page on this website-- http://www.northeastartisans.org/jamie-ferguson.html
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