Welcome to HERO Art Month, our cross-sectional study of the international contemporary art scene during which we look at the key gatekeepers, from artists to gallerists, architects and curators, the established and emerging feature side by side as part of our month-long investigation into some of the most influential figures in the scene.
Kirsty Ogg has spent the majority of her career championing young artists, spearheaded by her time at the forefront of the Glasgow DIY scene, founding the legendary artist-run project space Transmission, and her work as Director of The Showroom in London – an exhibition space dedicated to commissioning new work by developing talent.
Today, she heads up New Contemporaries – one of a growing number of institutions providing major support to young students, graduates and budding professionals within the British art scene. Alongside a touring exhibitive platform for new graduates, each year, Ogg joins a panel of influential art voices to select 50 winners for the finalists exhibition.
Here, Kirsty Ogg goes head to head with three artist highlights from this year’s line-up. The final name in the trio is Jack Burton.
Intro by K. Ogg:
“Jack works from an archive of photographs, cutting and ripping up large format prints in order to make collages that he often paints over. The resulting narratives jump between moments of stillness and anxiety, reflecting Burton’s own experience of the world.”
Kirsty Ogg: Tell us about the work that was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries.
Jack Burton: Bloomberg New Contemporaries selected two works. One was titled French Bread and depicted two trees dug up with their roots ready to be transported to a new location with a depiction of baguettes above the trees and the French word for Bread, ‘Pain’, painted on top, all on a very corporate or perhaps bad-striped-shirt motif of vertical multi-coloured lines.
The other work, titled Night Shop, The Smell Of Fig Trees, depicts the corner of a hotel room with a sink and mirror, and on top of this are drawn details: a portrait of someone looking out of the frame to the right, a ‘night shop’ sign, which is a sign you see often in Brussels where I now live, a disembodied hand smoking a cigarette, music notes, and a fig tree.
KO: How will you develop your work following your selection for Bloomberg New Contemporaries?
JB: Essentially more time in the studio, and more time travelling to different places to see art. That is always the way I develop my work.
KO: What are the current challenges faced in your own practice?
JB: Time and money are probably still the biggest challenges, especially time, but apart from these more practical challenges I have been thinking a lot about the Cold Song by Henry Purcell in his semi-opera King Arthur. The song is part of a comedic scene where a magician summons the spirit of someone frozen to death. Though a comic scene, if you listen to the song in isolation it is totally desolate and tragic. I’m trying to think about how you do something like this with an image, how you might isolate something and make this one thing that it does come through in a really powerful way.
KO: Can the UK arts industry stay strong in the face of funding cuts and a fall in pupils taking creative subjects in the school curriculum?
JB: In short, no, I don’t think so. But it is not just about cuts and enrolment. As an artist, once you are out of the educational system, debt in tow, you are faced with high rent prices and low wages, and artists need the opposite! Artists need cheap studios and cheap places to live and a part time source of income that covers rent, materials, food, and drink. It’s very simple. In fact it’s what everyone needs.
If the only people who can afford to be artists and afford an art education are those with private wealth or access to a high paying part time job, then you don’t really have an industry, as the money holding it up comes from external sources.
What makes it an industry, I believe, are the structures in place that ensure meritocracy over nepotism or class bias that ensure people can gain access to the life of an artist no matter what their background is. But funding cuts and the withdrawal of support hits the poorest the hardest, and so it is also no wonder enrolment is dropping off.