Jamie Willis is a talented painter and sculptor. Working in the arts community for 20 years Jamie has been an artists assistant and has participated in various group exhibitions throughout Australia. Recently graduated with an associate Bachelor of Visual Art from Adelaide Central School of Art, Jamie has a Studio at Floating Goose Studios Inc. He is currently preparing for a solo exhibition in the Floating Goose Gallery. He cleared some time in his schedule to sit down and talk about his experiences in the arts with Verso.
How did you decide to become involved in the visual arts?
Oh jeez, well it started when I began working in a foundry. We were making these beautiful cogs and mechanical components for different machinery out of bronze. We would cast the different pieces, finish and shine them and I remember thinking we can make better stuff out of this! I began thinking that I should start casting. Until my mid 20's I really thought only special people could be artists and that wasn’t an option for me. But inspired by these clogs and casting process I started looking for an art school. By this time I was in my 20’s, so you could say that I came to art pretty late, but I decided to go to the Adelaide Central School of Art. What I liked about it was that the course was structured so that I began right from scratch, drawing boxes and measuring things up.
What’s your most proud arts achievement?
There have been lots of things that I’ve been excited or proud of. If I had to choose one it would probably be a work I created called "Crash Test". It was a group of five, life-sized crash test dummies cast in bronze. They were shown in Hindmarsh Square. Part of why I am proud of them is that they represented a huge amount of effort. They took me two and a half years to create. I was pleased with them; they made me feel like I had achieved something.
This is a hard question; there are lots of exciting things I’ve been involved with in the arts. I have been lucky enough to be an artist’s assistant to a local Adelaide sculptor and the painter Annette Bezor. This was a fantastic experience and I was able to travel overseas with both artists. I am lucky and privileged to have been able to work with both artists.
What are the main concerns of your practice?
In general or specifically the series of paintings I am producing now? In general my work tends to be about people and their existential experiences. Maybe existential isn’t the right word because that’s quite loaded, more it’s about the way people exist in society.
I think my work is socially quite out spoken or it’s trying to be. On the other hand some works are quiet and introspective. I aim to capture how people interact with each other. In this way I see some aspects of my work as psychological and other aspects as inspecting more social elements of existence. I try to get people to reflect on certain social issues when looking at my work while also creating a pleasing aesthetic affect.
In regards to the body of work I am currently producing (paintings featuring swirling, abstract forms in a limited colour palette) it’s about trying to create an emotional affect in people.
I am not trying to say anything as such. I feel trying to say something important is something to aspire to. In some ways this body of work has been a rest for me and hopefully for the audience.
In creating them however I have tried to think about seeing reality in a different form. I imagined what this reality would look like to someone who had maybe been raised by wolves. The present as we understand it wouldn’t make sense to them, these paintings might be how they see the world.
Formally this series is about harking back to my sculptural roots. I am trying to create form with a limited palette. Just using light and dark to create form.
Describe your studio…
I have a wonderful studio at Floating Goose Studios Inc. It’s the best group of people, most of whom I was lucky enough to meet at Adelaide Central School of Art. Honestly, I don’t think I could have created this body of work in another studio. It wouldn’t have come together at all or at the very least not in the same way. The studios are great and it’s a fantastic location here on the corner of Morphett Street and Gouger Street.
Can you describe your making process?
This latest body of work was developed from little sculptures that I had made. Within in these sculptures I find a good composition. The sculptures I produce are white, so, once I’ve decided on the composition I choose the colour intuitively. I just make it up as I go and if the colour isn’t working I’ll change it halfway through even though I am working with a limited colour palette.
What about art keeps you coming back every day?
Art is just a total compulsion for me. I’d love to give it up and get a normal job but I can’t not make art in some way. Not that I haven’t tried.I get strung out if I am not making and I tend to get cranky and irritable. I think that it’s like that for most of us.I think being in a creative field is really fulfilling and I am really honored to be in the creative industry. The best people I have met in my life have been in the arts.
Do you have any tips for other artists?
I have to say, the artists that have been most successful in my opinion, are the artists who have treated their arts practice like a job. They go to the studio everyday and work hard. It’s not about having this ephemeral art practice for them.
Somerset Maugham, a writer, said “I write when inspiration strikes; fortunately it strikes every morning at nine a.m. sharp.” I guess what I am trying to say is don’t waste time, get in the studio.
What artists/writers/and/or creative people that inspire you?
How long did you say this article was going to be? ‘cause there are a lot of them. But I suppose the most important would be Sarah Sze, Anish Kapoor, of course, Antony Gormely and Tara Donovan. Oh, also Sandy Skogkund, she creates these incredible set ups and then photographs them. She displays the photographs as the final work but to me she is a real installation artist. I love the way she picks and uses colour as well. I think they would be my top installation artists.
In regards to painters, James Gleeson, Matthias Grunewald, who is a 15th century painter and Hieronymus Bosch. Also Annette Bezor, I spent 10 years working with her and she was the one who really taught me how to paint so I think she has to be on this list. These painters may not necessarily represent my style, process or colour palette, these are the painters I think about when I paint.
In terms of miscellaneous creative people, Jorge Luis Borges and E.R.Eddison who wrote epic fantasy novels in the 1920’s.
Do you have a five-year plan?
Yep, it started last year. My five-year plan is based on the five year lease we have here at the Floating Goose. It’s a pretty loose plan, I think all five year plans have to be because inevitably other opportunities come along and your plan ends up in a muddle.
My plan is to get three good exhibitions together and work like a crazy thing while I have the studios.
Well funny you should mention that. Yes! I have an exhibition coming up called "Implausible Realities". It opens at the Floating Goose Gallery on the 10th of February at 6:00. The Gallery is open every Friday from 3-9pm, Saturday 10-4pm and Sunday 12-4pm during exhibition times.