Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A beautiful punk rock tragedy | An Interview with John John Jesse

What was growing up for you like?

Not very happy as I wish I could look back upon. It was lonely as I was an only child with a single mother who worked all the time.. I was alone. And when she was free we’d be in church and I didn’t like that at all especially since I was in Catholic School too. Ugh.My only friends were TV, comics , pencil and paper, and later on rock records.

Were you always interested in art an early age or was it something that grew into?

I was not into art really besides like, Batman or Spiderman. My first interest in art was basically through old punk and hardcore record covers and flyers. They were cool, real raw and sloppy and bold.

Did you undertake any official art training?

No I was a high school drop out at 15 years old. I hated school or any institutions for that matter. I was like a caged animal. Painting and drawing is just something that I was always able to do gracefully. It’s the ONLY thing I know how to do.

Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

Life experience. The work is meant to specifically be my autobiography. About growing up in the Lower East Side of NYC during the 70s and 80s when it was a bombed out ghetto, my life as a punk rocker who was extremely political but a slave to heroin and alcohol, about love and heartbreak BUT also about triumph. All done with a little cuteness and humor.

Where do you come up with a lot of the girls faces and mannerisms? Are they semi-based on people you know or simply people grown in your imagination?

They are all people who modeled in person for me or sent me pics to work from. They are there simply to illustrate my tale. Most people think i just make them all up in my head but that's just not the case to clarify that up once and for all.

How would you describe your art?

Like i said it is truly my life story. The good, the bad. My life had been soo epic and tragic and beautiful that I needed to tell my tale but i can’t write for shit so I tell it visually. And now that i’m older I am calmer and more patient to actually sit down and commit to this story. When i was in my 20s I could never sit still long enough to do this, I was also strung out as hell then too, soo...

I feel a kind of quirky whimsy meets punk rock aesthetic when I look at your work but there also seems to be many dimensions to your work . How do you find a happy medium when working on a piece and deciding where you want it to go versus where it could take you?

Well one thing is a fact for me. A painting no matter how dark a theme or whatever should always look beautiful and timeless. Like if you were to see it 100 years from now it would be still be relevant or related in many ways to a viewer. Trends in the art world and things that have no narrative are no interest to me.

Can you describe your process from idea to finished piece?

Once upon a time I sketched ideas but I was never ever able to recapture that magic within the spontaneous sketch, there was always something missing, so now I just “wing it”.

Who are some of your own favourite artists and why?

Carravagio, Jamie Reid, ..

Carravagio’s painting were soo passionate and alive and you could feel the darkness and despair or lust. soo good.

Jamie Reid who did all the Sex Pistols and Vivienne Westwood’s Seditionaries clothing graphics is my obsession. It created the entire look and attitude and shock value that is still timeless and credible in punk today.

Is there a particular person or artist you would love to work with?

Not so much cuz I'm a little reclusive. I get asked to collaborate but that make me uncomfortable as i work all alone shacked up in my studio like an elusive mad scientist. My process is isolation and how i feel as i paint really shines onto the finished works, i think.

What are your favourite colours and materials to work with?

Anything with browns , sepias, or earthtones. not a lot of black ever. Red always pops very nicely. I work with gouche, spraypaint, graphite, inks and heavy gloss varnish on thick heavy birch wood panels.

There are a lot of females, sexual themes & bright colour schemes in your work that evoke a lot of emotion and whimsy. When your working on a piece are there central themes you tend to re-visit or concepts you like to base your projects on?

Yehh there is always a few ways to tell the same story in a completely different visual manner so i do revisit the same things a few times. but since it my story and I'm still alive the story always continues.

The 'bunny' seems to make a few appearances. Is there a story about that or do you just like bunnies?

who doesn’t like bunnies? if you don’t you should die!

Is there any direction you would like to go with your art that you haven't conceptualised yet?

Yehh it grows every year, changes organically on it’s own. What i did say, 10 years ago barely resembles what i do now. I try not to foresee it’s development too much and just let things transform over time naturally.

What can we expect from John John Jesse in the future?

I want to put out a hard cover coffee table art book of all my works but i have yet to find a decent publishing deal. Maybe a show in one of my gallery reps (Opera Gallery) other galleries worldwide, like in Asia or Paris. Maybe i’ll even get married and buy a house one day. who knows. Years ago i never would have thought i would leave my hometown of New York City but here i am in New Hope, Pennsylvania in the country. Weird.