Next up in our Prints & Inks artist profile series is London, Ontario-based artist Jamie Q, who works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, zine-making, printmaking, and sculpture. They have shown their art in exhibitions across Canada, including their first major solo show, Make-Believe, at Toronto’s Art Metropole in 2010. Internationally, their sculptures were included in Family Shirt, a 2011 exhibition of contemporary Canadian art in Malmö, Sweden; and in Dirtstar 2011: Take Root, as part of the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco. They have also distributed their solo and collaborative art zines across Canada, and internationally in the United States and Turkey.
Jamie Q has a BFA from the Alberta College of Art & Design (2002) and an MFA from The University of Western Ontario (2010). Their MFA research focused on the politics and aesthetics of the do-it-yourself ethic, as well as the social potential of art objects and DIY distribution strategies. They live and work in London, Ontario.
Tell me a little bit about the specific project you submitted to Prints & Inks, What Luck? What is the story behind it?
One day I became curious about what the pattern of winning Lotto 6/49 numbers would look like on the selection slip in comparison to the ones I had picked, so I coloured them in next to my losing numbers. There was just something interesting to me about these two random patterns representing such different outcomes: one worth a huge life-changing amount of money, and the other being a failed attempt made out of a kind of financial desperation.
I’ve made a number of silkscreened books, and originally I thought this would be a good theme for a book project, with the winning and losing patterns on facing pages. But as I started working on the idea, I decided to make it a print series instead, so that I could make the scale much larger. At the time, I was also thinking about how to make large art projects composed of many parts, which could be shown as a group in a gallery setting, but could also be separated and exist individually in domestic space.
The idea to sell tickets to win a print for $2 developed later on in the project. It adds an element of interactivity where people coming to the show can participate in a similar game of chance.
What is your reasoning behind choosing the medium of silkscreen? Tell me more about the associations you make between the medium and other broader issues, such as ease of reproducibility, street art, politics, or aesthetics.
My process with making art usually starts with choosing the medium I want to work with. I had decided that I wanted to make some prints before I decided what kind of prints I would make. So, I would say that enjoying the aesthetic qualities and process of silkscreening are central to this project. Of course, the ability to make many of the same image also made sense for a project that would document my losing numbers again and again over a period of time.
While the political aspect of printmaking may not be obvious in this project, I do tend to read politics into everything; I can’t really separate the political from the social. For example, the challenge of how to make a living as an artist is something I associate with these prints. I live below the poverty line, and I play the lotto sometimes. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the value of art, and I feel really conflicted about sometimes making art that only wealthy people can afford. Making multiples makes art more affordable. Not that I want to equate mass production with democracy, but I do think that having art in homes makes lives better, and it shouldn’t be something that only some people can have as a luxury.
When I think of silkscreening, I think of two very broad categories: the aesthetic/design side, related more to fashion and the creation of saleable objects, and then that which is rooted more traditionally in the political spectrum, here I’m thinking of protest posters and the like. Would you situate your work on either side? How so?
I actually wrote my MFA thesis around the supposed divide between aesthetic/stylized art and political/socially-engaged art. What I found was that the closer I looked at this, the more those distinctions dissolved. So I really wouldn’t situate my work on either side, because I don’t really believe there are two sides. It’s much more complex than that. For example, an aesthetic print might be political in the way that it is produced and distributed (for example, through a mail-art and delivery system that collects artwork from all over the world and distributes it freely by bicycle to people in the streets), while a political print might still operate as a saleable object within a capitalist economy.
At first glance, my lotto prints would seem to fall on the aesthetic side of things, but then you have economic themes running through it, and the possibility of winning some original art for $2 rather than buying it for hundreds of dollars through a prestigious dealer or something like that.
How are you influenced by other artists, specifically, other silkscreeners/printers? Who are you inspired by and how is this translated into your own work?
Well, I lived in Montreal from 2002-08, where there is a huge culture of silkscreened posters. So artists like Seripop and Leyla Majeri have made impressions on me. I’ve also been to a lot of small press and comics fairs. I am a big fan of Shawn Cheng‘s hand-bound screenprinted books. I have this amazing book by Anya Davidson called Consciousness 3. The pages are all loose 21″ x 17.5″ prints in a big portfolio. My silkscreened book projects are more reflective of these influences than the lotto project, which is much more minimal than my other work. The lotto project might be more influenced subconsciously by Claus Oldenburg or something, with its shift in scale..
Is there a collaborative aspect to your work? Do you see silkscreening as being particularly suited to collaboration?
Yeah, some of my screenprinted books are collaborations with James Kirkpatrick. We work together under the name Dusty Peas. I wouldn’t say that print is any more suited to collaborating than other media.. we do paintings, drawings, sculptures, zines and stuff too. But it’s nice to have help in the print shop, for sure, ha! Collaborating is sometimes a challenge, because each person might have different ways of doing things, but this is also what makes it interesting–you end up with something neither of you expected, which, if you’re compatible as collaborators, is usually an exciting and inspiring surprise that gives you new ideas to take back to your solo work.
Thanks Jamie! To see more of Jamie Q’s work, visit their website.