Five Questions with artist Claudia Jowitt

1. Hi Claudia, we’ve been keeping an eye on your work since you completed our mentoring programme in 2011, you have been busy! Can you tell us what you have been up to of late?

Well during the period that Jill Sorensen was my mentor in 2011, a bunch of us AUT graduates (me, Lisa Rayner, Gemma Skipper, Phillip Good and Ena Kosovac) established an artist run space on Karangahape Road called Second Storey, which we ran for two years. We had noticed that there was a bit of a gap for recent graduates to have opportunities to show and put projects together in a supportive environment. I learnt a lot through that experience from the day-to-day practicalities of signing a commercial lease, to how to curate projects in a collaborative manner and the need for simplicity and clarity in a project proposal. In 2013 when we closed the space, I went back to AUT to do Honours. This year I started my Masters at Elam, which all going to plan I will complete next year.

2. We know that you work in the art industry as well as having a career as a ‘maker’. How do you balance these and does working in the industry affect your practise in any way?

I have worked in art supply shops for about seven years both on a full-time and part-time basis, which has always been incredibly helpful in terms of product knowledge (I am a painter) and access to materials. You learn a lot through teaching others about how things are used and dealing with issues that people are running into – I have encountered some pretty bizarre and varied issues that people manage to run into with art supplies for example encouraging people not to apply toxic paints to their face or use technical tools instead of medical equipment.

I interned at an auction house a number of years ago for a short while and quite rapidly learned what part of the art market I did and didn’t want to be part of. Auction houses are a constant commercial churn – there is a loss of creativity and joy in the work that I found disparaging.

Currently I work at Tim Melville Gallery and on a casual basis with Fox Jensen Gallery. While dealer galleries are also a commercial endeavour, if you come across passionate and informed dealers who have a genuine enthusiasm for their artists and the work they are showing it is a whole different story. Working in galleries and art fairs you see different sides of the art industry and of the people who buy art, from those who see it merely as investment to those who purely buy things on gut instinct. I have learnt and am still learning a whole lot about how things work in the art world, along with how to conduct yourself in a professional capacity in this field.

As with working any job and trying to keep a sustainable creative practice, it is all about striving to find a balance between the two. Along with having enough energy to be able to go to your studio at night and make progress, when you would rather eat chocolate and watch television in bed. Time is really the key thing in managing to maintain both. I have just finished a month of running Tim Melville Gallery full time while he was overseas and it was definitely a lot trickier to be productive in the studio when work is all encompassing.  That’s why studying is such a luxury really, when you can spend most of your week working studio.

3. Can you tell us a little about where your practice is heading, what are you currently investigating in your work?

At the moment I have moved from quite a sparse use of paint into a big excess of it. I am the middle of figuring out where my practice is off to at the moment, doing my Masters has been good for opening up a whole lot of new avenues and questions that I don’t have all the answers to yet – which is a good thing otherwise I would get bored. There is nothing worse than working on painting over and over again then coming up for air, then realising it is too resolved and you’ve killed it.

Ultimately I am interested in the transitive nature of the painterly process and the potentiality that is inherent in this methodology. As well as how I can play with the fluctuations and fallibilities of the both the hand and eye. I am very much drawn to the idea that my work could quite easily be passed by, that you have to work at looking at it to be included and hooked into a painterly object that contains the whole history of its making.

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Image: Claudia Jowitt, Untitled oil on linen, 2014, 300x350mm

4. How do you keep momentum in your practice? (Any hints for our readers?)

Momentum is something that can be a bit ephemeral. It was something I definitely took for granted in my undergraduate studies – having so much studio time and being surrounded by like-minded peers. Anyone who is engaged with a creative practice will run into periods of hitting a wall or that age-old problem of writers-block.

There are ways to work through it though – from reading (it doesn’t have to be theoretical texts I have come across wonderful ideas that have got me thinking about my work in fiction), to going to look at shows or the simplest and often most effective way is to meet up with your peers for discussions. That’s why group studios can be so great – being able to be around other makers is important not only to keep a discourse going but also as a kick in the pants when you see how much work they are making.

I went back to study after three years break because I felt like my practice had stalled out and needed an overhaul. Having time out of the institution then going back when I needed it was definitely the right decision for me. Being outside of an academic structure where there is that constant pressure to meet deadlines is where you find out if you have the drive to be a practitioner. Fitting making around earning a living and other things like family commitments definitely puts your momentum to the test.

5. Lastly, have you got any shows or events coming up that we should know about?

I have had a few group shows this year and now I am working towards my first solo show at Corbans Estate Art Centre at the end of October. Which is both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking.

Images Courtesy Claudia Jowitt.