Interview: Kit Baker & Jesse Hogan
Meet two of the artists included in the upcoming Me Next Please exhibition.
Me Next Please is a group exhibition opening this Thursday night in Sydney, which showcases some of the most exciting up-and-coming talent the town has to offer. Before its opening, Oyster caught up with some of the artist's included in the show. This is part one, featuring Kit Baker and Jesse Hogan. Baker captured our attention with his intimate and candid mostly black and white photographs, which make us want to do as he does and carry a camera around in our back pockets and have fun every single day. We were first excited by Hogan's twisted neon installation pieces, and then our minds were sufficiently blown when we realised he is a multidisciplinary master. Check out our interviews below:
Tara Rivkin: How did you get into photography?
Kit Baker: In order to get out of playing sport at high school, I had two options: join the lawn bowls team or take photos in the Media Club. I chose option two, and started documenting school events like 'GET MASSIVE', where all the boys lined up in the quadrangle to see who could bench press the most.
Do you seek to explore certain themes through your work or do you mainly document your surroundings?
I always have a camera tucked away in one of my pockets but I'll only bring it out if I see something that really catches my eye. Sometimes I'll have a theme in mind, but most of the time I'm just looking to capture little moments I know won't happen again.
Which photographers do you look to for inspiration?
I am constantly looking at photos, and I really love it when someone shoots something that I've never seen before; something that I don't understand. I love the mystery in Tobias Faldt's images and Henri Cartier-Bresson's candid street photography.
From what I've seen of your work, you shoot mostly in black and white. How come? Do you prefer that to colour?
I found learning to shoot in black and white easier, but recently I've been enjoying taking photos in colour too. Now I've started carrying two cameras around, one with colour film and one with black and white.
Your photos evoke a feeling of nostalgia, as if they weren't shot today but in the sixties or seventies (at least that was my response to them). Do you intentionally try to develop a certain mood or era in your photos?
There's a certain glamour and style to the 60s/ 70s that I've always liked but that's not to say I go out and try and get this look intentionally. I don't think it's so much what I should that looks old, but more the style and aesthetic. I love surprising photos, and am interested in the details that may reveal something completely different to what you would see upon first glance. A photo might look decades old but then something gives it away, like an iPhone in the background.
Tara Rivkin: What different art forms do you work across?
Jesse Hogan: My main preoccupation has always been painting and installation, but this includes many mediums like paint, woodwork, silicon, plastic, neon text, video and printing, although there are times when the only way to clearly articulate an idea is through a particular medium. Painting and sculpture are usually representations of visual things or other objects. When artworks are self-referential they confirm themselves as real things in the world so a painting or a sculpture that represents itself is more interesting to me. In its many forms, text has proved to be effective at being itself – it can be abstract, painterly or sculptural – so by using text, it can actually represent different art forms without using those materials. I like playing with the idea of "what is it?" so that the art forms overlap to the point where you start to question what it actually is.
What themes do you explore through your art?
Early on, I tried to explore the impact of technology and environment, modernism and dystopia, psychedelia – in terms of the psychological – and then even magic and alchemy... [but now] theme is actually something I try to avoid and find problematic. In trying to address themes, the work gets muddled up in the area of form versus content or content over form. It's like how a video artist can claim that their work is about time, space and memory. But how could it not be? Video is a 4-dimensional medium. It uses time, space and memory as its material.
So what about your practice now?
Art tends to automatically reflect its time of production so I'm now more focused on the dynamics between material and the position of the works in relation to teleology, discourse and contemporary dialogue. Art as art, and post-modern critique is in a way a theme, I suppose, but it is more about temporal transient perceptions and works off the principal that no meaning is fixed and it all depends on context. If you follow this idea then themes will be interpreted differently by different audiences. The artist's original intention to communicate that theme is lost with every individual viewer.
You reference death in your work. Can you tell us about the thought process behind this?
Death is a heavy word and something that's always been of great interest to me. It originally came from my continual questioning of life after death – if you lose someone close to you early in your life this question will loom over you for a long time. The irony was that through studying the historical 'death' of painting... the answer became evident to me and I came up with a term to justify a reason to continue a painting practice but also to accept death as a transition not an end: 'the inevitable afterlife'.
Tell us more about 'the inevitable afterlife'...
It's an affirmation of the avant-garde. In order to renew thoughts, ideas and art forms, you have to kill them. Painting has been proclaimed dead since the advent of photography... I like the cyclic idea that death and reincarnation provide to the practice and the games people play surrounding the giving up of a medium. Artists will say " I no longer make objects" or "I don't make drawings anymore, I only make videos." I find this funny and I like to play the game with in my own practice. Just because neon is dead it doesn't mean another one can't be made... In 2009, I made a neon text work, 'The Last Neon Peace, Ever' and now the art form is dead. Or is it?
How has your art evolved over time?
Like the cyclic pattern of death and rebirth in the history of painting, a miniature version of this has been going on in my own practice for the last ten years. I was doing a lot of abstract painting and then found that I wanted to work with other mediums to escape the limits of flat surfaces and rectangular shapes. It took a while of working with building structures and video before I could go back to painting. I'll only make paintings now when I have a particular concept that I think will work best as a painting... I've found that when you return to old ideas you often realize how you should've done it the first time. So it's a constant process of reinventing what you do.
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, featuring Jedda-Daisy Culley and Mark Alsweiler.
Interview: Tara Rivkin
Words: Ingrid Kesa