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Artist Feature ://
Joe Turpin
Posted March 2018

Riot (What a Time to be Alive), 760mm x 1013mm, Oil stick, aerosol, acrylic and marker on canvas, 2016

Joe Turpin’s mixed-media works are created in conversation with one another and use similar points of departure, being current or previous affairs/news events, artists and intertextuality with other artworks and methodologies. It continues a practice seeking to unveil these methodologies and analyses of Johannesburg in relation to the artist’s own ‘positionality’, in a more ‘quilted’ manner of painting and mixed media. This work illustrates, though found objects, the continuous manner of exploration in introducing elements of sculpture and text to expand the artist’s practice and that of painting (a recent development in Turpin’s emerging practice). The works use semiotics, reflected by song lyrics, various sources of inspiration or the streams of life in popular culture and modernity, as well as repetition, to convey or deplete meanings and knowledge. The artistic landscape in Johannesburg, and South Africa in general, is always going to be political with it’s socio-economic history. Work may then be political and confrontational. Experimentation in attempts on how to get away from that, and make work which is considered more ‘fun’ inherently became political in it’s attempt to get away from it. Essentially it is a kind of map of the metropolitan nature of daily visual culture production and conditioning in Johannesburg. Each work, however many parts, is a culmination of sorts.
Joe Turpin is a South African, Johannesburg based visual-artist. Born in 1995, having studied in the United Kingdom and South Africa respectively, he currently lives and practices in Johannesburg. Turpin studied Fine Arts for one year at Oxford Brookes School of Art in the United Kingdom, and his BA Fine Art (hons) at Wits School of Art in Johannesburg. Turpin is Jewish and comes from an artistic background.

Turpin is currently independent of any formal representation, and has had exhibitions and festival shows in a variety of countries around the world as well as received press online and in various publications.

Introspective Landscape (RG), 762mm x 762mm (canvas), Oils, oil stick, aerosol, acrylic, wheat paste on canvas, mixed media with found objects, Arthouse Studios, Wits School of Art Johannesburg, 2017

Q. How did your time studying in the UK compare to your time studying in South Africa?

It was an interesting shift. There have been many similarities and crossovers but equally as many differences as well. The course itself and its content in South Africa has been open to more subversion, questioning and change in dialogue which has been insightful. In many aspects my time in the UK was more ‘traditionally’ focused, both in course content but also in technical aspects, whereas in SA it has been more ‘radical’, if I can put it that way. I discovered and learned so much about contemporary British Art there (UK) and here so much about contemporary art from the African continent and the world as a whole. It has definitely widened my lens.

Q. Some of your work is reminiscent of street art, is this a fair statement? If so, is your aim to create a message to be viewed in public space by the general public?

I would say that to be a fair statement. I started out with an interest in street art, because of inspiration of other street artists but I think also because of its accessibility. Public art is very important, whether it is ‘street art’, ‘graffiti’ or other forms of public art placement. Many people don’t have ‘access’ to see art in it’s many walled institutions. I would like for work I create to be in public spaces, not just paint on the wall but in broader presentations as well.

Bosses (Kray Twins), 610mm x 762mm, Oil stick, chalk pastel, aerosol, acrylic, marker on canvas, 2017

Q. Often you work with installation, placing objects alongside your canvases. How do you make these connections?

This is something I am still attempting to resolve in my studio practice. I’ve become interested in expanding the practice of painting, so if found or imagined objects relates to the kind of narrative or theme of the painting itself, I will try to find a way to incorporate it into the work, whether it is attached to the canvas or placed in proximity to it. So far, the painting will demand an extension in some way and not the other way around (yet). So each element relates to one another.

GM, 1016mm x 1016mm (canvas), Oils, oil stick, aerosol, acrylic, wheat paste on canvas, mixed media with found objects, Arthouse Studios, Wits School of Art Johannesburg, 2017

Q. Why do you feel that political art is important?

I think all art is political. Even in attempts to get away from it, it will inherently be political, because ‘getting away from it’ is a factional statement in itself. It begs the question of ‘art for art’s sake’, which is important to me. But all art production and theorizing takes place in spheres of political results, decisions and actions, which ultimately affect the economy, the institutions, and the streams of life within which artists work.

Q. Tell us about your process from the start to the finish of an artwork. How do your ideas begin and then take shape?

My methodology mostly begins with a kind of intention to convey. Whether something has happened in the news, to me in person or internally, any ‘moment’ can form an idea. I then try to visualize how best it can be brought to life or created. What ecstasy of the colours is brought out in my imagining? Is there text displayed? What other artist’s can I look at, those that have worked through similar presentations or ideas? Once this kind of palette image forms in my head I think about how best I can bring it to life. That’s essentially what my aims are, to bring something that already exists within me to the physical. I used to sketch quite a lot before production began but I seem to be doing that less and less, although it helps if I need to resolve a pictorial landscape, or if I’m waiting for materials to come through. The semiotics and colours that were in my head will simply come down on the canvas, paper, and sculpted figure or in the arrangement of objects for video or photographic documentation. Some kind of surface area is usually interrogated until I feel like a narrative or result can be displayed.

Jonah and The Whale, 914,4mm x 1219mm, Oil stick, aerosol, acrylic, wheat paste on canvas, The Point of Order Johannesburg, 2017

Q. What position in your career would you like to be in in 10 years time, and how do you intend to get there?

This is a difficult question. I think I would like to be gratified in the production of my practice. To have the space and ability where if I want to produce an artwork, film or any kind of portrayal, no matter how large, demanding or quick it has to be put out, it can be put out. I’d like to have the help to do that and for these works to travel and be shown to the people that need to see them. I imagine myself in a kind of open space, where I’m not closed off or secluded in some dark studio, but where I can have free conversations and meditations on my work, how myself and others see things and how it provokes sentiment. How do I intend to get there? I think continued application for myself. Experiences at art school, the people you meet, ‘staff’, ‘artists’, fellow students and the conversations had are invaluable. I want to keep my presence in places where I can continue encounters. Once I carve my lot out, I will find a place that will work for me. Post graduate programs, residences, symposiums, seminars, exhibitions, moments that inform my work, and that my work may inform, and studio practice...its all part of the plan.

︎ joeturpinart.tumblr.com

︎ @joegturpin

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