Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meet Your Maker: Jessie Fairweather

Were you a stationary nut as a child?

In a word, yes. I loved making little books, or notes or letters, that always had elaborate headings, borders and pictures, but mostly I loved surprising someone with a handmade paper something with a personal message, and gauging their reaction. Classroom time was generally spent drawing headings, and art was always my favourite class. Although that is a long time ago now, what I really like doing hasn’t changed all that much!

Where does your design inspiration come from?

My approach to design begins from a conceptual standpoint: the content and ideas are key and the aesthetics follow from there. The old school of: form follows function. Most of my inspiration comes from ideas: big ideas of astronomy from people like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies, or nature and evolution, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, and inventive designers from Buckminster-Fuller to Bruno Munari.

It also comes a lot from nature itself. I love botanical and anatomical illustration, birds, eggs, feathers, shells, patterns in nature and seasons, and underlying structures, and recurring number patterns, fractals... science and maths.

Some of your works use bright colours, others dark with black and gold. Does this come from your artistic eye or heart?

I went through quite a big phase of just using black and white – I loved the completely sparse feeling you get from absence of colour – and that the form had to work really hard to make the page come alive. Black always features heavily; mainly because my subject matter is often related to astronomy in some way. And recently, over the last year, I have become seduced by colour again and am really enjoying playing with vibrant colours, particularly for screen-printing. It is so satisfying and wonderful to be pulling colour across the screen, and then see it jump off the sheet just printed.

Tell us about being able to live off your art.

For me, graphic design enables me to live off creativity. This is my first year being involved in exhibitions and creating art. I am really enjoying the freedom of it, and also the physical act of making. I guess I feel it is important, at this point, to be approaching an art practice as aiming to create things that I believe in and am passionate about, and if other people like it then opportunity to live off it would be the dream!

How does research play a part?

I spend most of the time researching. Mainly reading books, and Google, and Wikipedia is great for random correlations and learning unexpected things. Research is central to any design or art project for me; it is where I find inspiration and ideas, and it gives the work a context, and most importantly - content. It all comes down to content, and communication. I like a meaty subject matter that I feel strongly about and want to have some kind of dialogue about.

You've won numerous design awards. Did that change your art practice in any way?

It is very nice to win an award, but not the reason for doing anything but more a means to an end: a connection with peers, and the more cynical sceptical me admits, the business end of things.

What did you want to express in new show "Everything is from Nothing"?

I am continuously drawn back to astronomy. The first time I was introduced to astronomy, in a way that really clicked for me, was when I was shown an image of a scattering of galaxies. The Milky Way was one tiny dot amongst many others, and every speck of light in the image was not a star, but actually a galaxy that could be much smaller, or larger than our own. It is kind of impossible to fathom that beyond our own galaxy, there are potentially infinite galaxies. When I first saw that image, it was the first time the monument of the universe made some kind of sense to me, and the following wonder of my place as one human being, and all the myriad of flora and fauna and seemingly infinite and amazing minutia of existence. I never have believed in a god, or creation, but here I found something I could believe in and be inspired by.

Since being introduced to this first image – I have done quite a lot of reading on astronomy, and it is a pivotal subject matter for me – both creatively and personally. Astronomy raises questions of belief, mortality, and existence. And I find it quite an unrelenting subject because whilst there has been amazing advances in our understanding of our planet, and progress on the universe at large: the ultimate question is unanswered: is there a grand unified theory of the universe and, if so, exactly where do we fit into it? What are we doing here, apart from enjoying some excellent company, having some fine times, and enjoying a lovely drop of wine? So I decided to explore that question: the beginning – where we might come from and how, and discovered that the best theory going at the moment is that everything that we know comes from nothing; and came into being in a spontaneous explosion; everywhere and all at once. Beyond our imagination and realm of possibility.

Is there a reason you chose Stockroom?

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jason and Magali for the last couple of years – since they opened Wolf at the Door in Hepburn. That was a beautiful and great space, and their amazing undertaking at Stockroom is that ten-fold. They have breathed new life into an old stock room of a completely different kind, and created a place that is a joy to be in, and a celebration of the arts and culture.

“Everything is from Nothing" will exhibit from September 17 - October 9, at Stockroom.