"Oh boy, finally that backlog of Paris Review interviews I read are going to pay off…"- Jennifer Rooke
What lead to you searching for the words ‘I Miss in emails? Did you actually base all these drawings on those found in your inbox?
I had the idea of the Mailbox space in my head as I was staring at my e-mail inbox one day. With so many different methods of instant communication, the art of the e-mail is slowly fading (can we romanticise e-mails?) I was thinking how I write more e-mails when I or someone close to me is away and I might say things that I don’t say in person. Thinking of the clichéd line ‘wish you were here’, I searched for the words ‘I miss’ in my sent e-mails which resulted in me reading all of these old conversations from the last few years. I found that to express that you miss someone or something might be quite sincere or it might be said in a very offhand manner. I constructed the narrative of my drawings from the results of this search. I am interested in how easily we can access personal communication that has been recorded online and how we may form a sentimental attachment to these mediums. Having recently downsized from a smartphone and deactivated my facebook account, I will be living through my blog and e-mail until someone comes and drags me out of the mid-2000s.
Have you always written poetry as an aside to your art practice- Do you publish your writing places in places other than your blog?
Writing has always been an important part of my art practice and I am still figuring out how to use it. I have been an avid journal writer since high school and I can currently count at least 17 journals on my bookshelf from the last 5 years. To the untrained eye, most of the content is illegible (I think my handwriting has gotten worse since high school) but I really value the journals as an ongoing record of my work and life. A journal is a place for me to articulate ideas, record personal stories and feelings, philosophize, write down quotes that I don't reference properly, do calculations, record my one liners and occasionally draw. The poetry on my blog usually stems out from my journal writing. I find that sometimes words make more sense than visuals when trying to articulate a particular feeling or idea. that one was for you is the first time that I have published my writing somewhere other than my blog.
Yes I knew you made an artist book ‘That One Was For You’ but I can’t find much information on you website- on your CV it lists you as the writer illustrator and on your blog there is a post with a picture. Can you tell us more about this? Will you be making more publications in the future?
that one was for you is a short book of poetry and illustrations that I produced last year around the time of my exhibition, I was wearing socks. I would describe it as a collection, almost a diary, of poems that depict charged moments through an introspective focus and description of minute details. The writing is understated in style; it is meditative and philosophical with moments of wit and self-deprecation. I designed and printed 50 copies of the book and have just dropped the last 10 copies at Sticky. I like that most of the poems are just printed in the book and not available online; I don’t know where they will end up and who may read them. It was good to put a cohesive collection of poems and drawings together and I will be looking to expand on this type of work in the future.
You also have poetic titles for your drawings some of which are humorous can you talk about titles in your work- does one come before the other?
I play around with words, phrases and pieces of conversation that become stuck in my head and try to record them in my journal. Titles are an important accompaniment to my images; they are often drawn directly from my writing and may contain literary or musical references. Sometimes I have the title in mind while I am working and sometimes I will think of it after the work is completed. In the past, I have felt a sense of disappointment when I can’t title a work; I think that perhaps this means that the work has just not found the right words yet.
Why is humour important to your work?
At its essence, my work is serious but there are always notes of humour that drift through my process of working. I think humour is a creative expression that wakes up your brain and sparks new ideas; you have to think quickly and consider your surroundings and timing.
Can you talk a bit about your use of materials and your work process?
I began to work primarily with pen on paper in 2010, once I acknowledged that I have a strong aversion to charcoal and that rigor mortis had set in to all my unwashed paint brushes. I do work and think in other mediums but over the last few years I have been especially interested in using graphic drawing materials to build up tone and form. I’ve found a common thread in my method is to create a system and then work towards its completion. It may be a mechanical way of working, but I find that the repetitive action and time embedded in the process of making a drawing brings me closer to the subject matter. I research and meditate on ideas as I am working and these thoughts become embedded in the final product. A lot of my recent work is very controlled which I find can be problematic; I note things like this about my practice and I am always looking to modify my methods of working.
How did you find working on a small scale?
I enjoyed a break from hauling large drawing boards from one room of my house to another room. My drawing technique means that I tend to work on quite an intimate scale so, in some ways, I found the experience similar to working on a larger scale. My hope is for the works to be viewed as an overall series and that the detail will then draw the viewer in closer. I think that the unique space of Mailbox naturally invites this intimate relationship between the viewer and the work.
Any artists or works in particular that influenced this show or your practice in general?
Everything is an influence. Today’s influences have included Roxy Music’s Sea Breezes, Daphne Du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall and the onset of Winter. I’m hoping tomorrow’s influences will include finding my gloves.
Any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
I’m looking forward to getting a studio later in the year so I can haul my drawing boards around somewhere new.
You can see more of Jennifer Rooke's work here: