Tuesday's Art Blog in London

Interview with Young Artist Jay Shaw-Baker: ‘Everyone is now an artist’

2 years ago

Many thanks to this blog, I am getting more and more invitations to see exhibitions of young artists and lesser-known galleries. I have had the opportunity to see great exhibitions from established artists but in my opinion, looking at works of younger or unknown artists is equally as important. (I wish though that I have more time these days to go to shows but that’s another story). In my opinion,  if I am able to spot who’s going to be the next big thing, (kind of having an X-factor radar really), then that means I have finally managed to fine-tune my taste after a year of looking at art. It’s clearly a work in progress, so please stay tuned.

I still manage, however, to get some time to do online interviews and I do it randomly. Sometimes I find interesting works from artists online or sometimes I get email requests. I have no guidelines set  at the moment but in the future when I get more experience, I would expect to be able to feature those that I feel have very strong portfolios of work. 

In this particular one, I had a chat with newly graduate/young artist Jay Shaw-Baker who had just curated a show called Figuratively Speaking with his artist friends. I am particularly interested what young artists have to go through in order to get their works seen in the public and how different the ball game is now compared to decades ago. This interview had some great insights on why it is important to form a camaraderie with fellow artists in order to curate a show together.

Now that sponsorships in the time of recession are much more hard to come by, it is essential for young artists to pool their resources together and curate their own shows with fellow artists. Rule no. 1: Be nice. Rule no. 2: If you can’t be nice to everyone, then at least, be nice to a handful few. Jay also spoke about the difficulties of getting discovered nowadays and he also expressed his hopes of having much more options and government help for young artists like him.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you became an artist/curator?

I graduated from UCA Canterbury only last year with a BA in Fine Art. Before [the] university,  I was making a living though selling my paintings on E-bay. I don’t really have any experience as a curator at all, so when I was organizing this exhibition, I  had to learn as I went along.    

Can you tell us what this exhibit is about?
The exhibition is essentially about figuration. When the final artists were assembled for the show we realised that the thing we had most in common was the fact that we were almost all figurative artists, or at least dealt with the figure in parts of our work, using it as a tool to communicate our ideas, hence the name FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING.

How did you come up with the idea? How did you organise this group of artists?
The idea for the exhibition first arose when I finished and submitted my last unit for the BA;. I wanted to have something for my art work that I could work towards. Also I had a very good group of artists in my year that I shared a studio with (Toby Ross, Rufus Filmer and Ross Mckean). I very much wanted to exhibit with them in London.  The day after the final deadline, I started looking around for galleries that I could hire to hold a show in. Eventually I found Ground Floor Left Gallery in Hackney which was probably the best place I could hope to find for the exhibition; it has both an excellent large gallery space as well as being in a location near many other galleries and studios.

I had Toby, Rufus and Ross on board for the exhibition but unfortunately there were no other artists from my university available to be in the show so I posted [some] ads on London artist websites for submissions to the show and became a kind of amateur curator. Paul Doeman and Fran Ortega were the two artists whose work I thought would complement the other artists work the most. Also, I asked two other artists, Ash Fitzgerald and Pernilla Iggstrom, who I knew [before]  when I had a studio in Erlang House. Pernilla, who had previous experience as a curator helped a lot in making the whole event more professional.      

For young artists like you, how easy/difficult is it to get your works out there? And what is the normal process of
getting discovered nowadays?
I think its much easier now to for artists to get their work seen. Artists profile sites like London Artists quarter provide both a place to direct people to your work as well as having local events and opportunities posted so you  keep up with what’s going on and be in exhibitions that you may otherwise never have even had heard about

The only problem with that it’s harder to get noticed – everyone is now an artist. It’s a much more crowded arena that artists who at some point want to make a living off their work are competing in. Before, if you wanted to be a professional artist you had to move to the centre of the art world (Paris or New York). There was a much smaller core of people who gave up [their] normal lives and jobs to create their art. And in turn the galleries only saw their work. I do kind of envy those artists back then. The way I’ve tried to get my work out to the public so far is just trying to be on as many shows as possible; getting to know other artists is of course very important.     

In France, if I am correct, artists get a form of subsidy to be able to live off their art, does UK have any alternative
like this?
As far as I know there is no such scheme. We have available [art] grants [which] artists can apply for to create a large piece of art work or arts project. The only problem with that is that the money can [come a bit slow] (sometimes around six months).  The project [also] needs to be vetted by the Arts Council, and [they] have to sometimes fulfill certain criteria which of course can inhibit spontaneity.

What I would like to see [are] empty commercial properties being made available for artists to use as studios and pop-up galleries. If you look at previous artist quarters such as Paris and New York (and Berlin today) the thing they have in common is that they were rich cities with parts of town where the rent was cheap. I think if boroughs in London made it much easier for artists to occupy some of the increasing empty shops on the high streets it would work wonders for the art scene and at very little cost.       


Can you tell us a little bit more about these artists and if you have top 5 picks of the show, which ones are they?
As I said, I know Toby, Ross, and Rufus from Uni; we shared a studio and all graduated from UCA Canterbury last year. We are all painters who work on a similar scale.

Ash and Pernilla both graduated from City & Guilds last year with MAs. As for Paul Doeman, he has a degree from what is now UCA, Farnham and has been a practicing artist in London for over ten years. And Fran is from Spain, he originally studied at the University of Seville, graduating in 2002 and since then has been in numerous shows in both Spain and the UK. I couldn’t elaborate on their artwork though, I would have to let them explain it.   As for choosing a top 5, I couldn’t say.


About the Author: Tuesday Gutierrez

I am a former digital marketing manager for the London 2012 Festival - the largest UK-wide festival ever staged. This is my blog about contemporary art, design, film, photography and all that move my soul.

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