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Exclusive Interview: Jasper Goodall on Illustration x Women

Illustration // Thursday, 06 May 2010

You're a UK based illustrator, designer, and photographer. In you bio, you write that your father is an architect and your mother a fine artist and photographer “instrumental in the Feminist Arts Movement during the 1970s and 80s. How have your parent's pursuits influenced your artwork and choice of career?


Well I think it kind of goes without saying that having two artistic parents is going to push you in an a creative direction somehow. Apparently they chose children's books that were amazingly illustrated not just because they liked them but to give me a formative education in aesthetics!


Having said both of them at one point or another were unsure about my career direction, my mother wanted me to be into sociology and politics – that’s where her passion was, that why she made the art she did - as a form of protest. I think it was because of the frustrations she felt during her time making art that she wanted me to be more directly involved with changing the world.


My father was much more into me being an illustrator; he used to bring back illustration annuals from the university library. But he didn't like it when I'd draw fantasy and comic art, I think he thought it wasn't 'proper' illustration. So in some ways I had to stand up and prove myself to both of them They are no longer alive but I know before they died they were very proud of me.



Much of your work focuses on the female body and fetishism. What draws you to these subjects and what are you hoping to convey to viewers? How has your mother's involvement in the Feminist movement informed this aesthetic direction?


What draws anyone to anything? - Desire I think. I focus there because thats where my desire seems to take me, I often wonder why too.


What am I hoping to convey? I'm not sure convey is the right word, I guess I want the viewer to also feel desire, maybe also to make them smile.


As to how my mother's involvement in feminism made it's mark... call it a late, late teenage rebellion!  I dunno, some of the old school feminists would probably shriek in disbelief but I think Lady Gaga is the greatest feminist of the 21st century. She uses her femininity and sexuality as power instead of seeing it as male objectification.



You state on your website that you were at “the forefront of the reinvention and rejuvenation of illustration in the late nineties and helped pave the way for the huge resurgence of the medium that we have witnessed in the last ten years.” Bold statement. Can you elaborate on this?


Ahh well ... I ever actually wrote that! It was a borrowed bit f text from my agency!! But in some ways it's true.


When I started out there were relatively few illustrators around (compared to now) and there was no sense of illustration being hip or cool in any way, and DGV Taschen and Rotovision were yet to publish a billion books on the subject! Illustration was largely seen as a bit quaint and photography was the big star.


I tend to always cite a quite revolutionary ad campaign for Faberge fusion perfume as my inspiration - it used Graham Rounthwaite, Jordi Lambada, and Graham had been doing some fashion editorial illustrations for the Face magazine and I suddenly saw that illustration could be really inspirational and cool.


I ended up working with Graham when he became art director at the Face, and he let me do what I wanted, the result was a series of work over a period of about 3 years that seemed to inspire a whole new generation of image makers. it was bright, pop, a bit kind of electro I guess. There were people that took inspiration and then there were people that literally copied the work! but soon the kind of random vector elements look was everywhere. Luckily I'm someone who gets bored of my work pretty fast and it's in my nature to move on, and do new things.




I saw a great video recap of this year's Semi Permanent convention [here]. You made a great statement there “Those kind of sexual images of women were massively taboo when I was growing up, and it’s like, what happens to a kid if you tell it you can’t have sweets? That’s what they want.” Does your fetish-inspired artwork reflect a love, fascination, or curiosity of females or their form?


Yes of course! I think fascination is the right word. I'm unsure whether it's any stronger than most other men, either I have more desire or more confidence (or need) to express it somehow?


I think my upbringing has created both a fear and fascination of the feminine in equal parts. I see a huge power in the female form - kind of goddess like!



What was speaking at Australia's annual Semi Permanent event like?


I'm kind of used to public speaking so it was fine really. Boring answer, sorry! I needed longer though I had to rush. I had so much more to say.



Your 'Poster Girls' exhibition marked a new direction in your work, mixing photography with illustration with latex, dripping pink goo, and acrylic cut out bodies. What drew you to experiment with this combination of new materials and what were you hoping to convey? What do you hope viewers take away from your artistry?


I'd been taking photographs as a kind of personal pursuit for a few years. I think really I have always kind of wanted to be a photographer, but as I never trained in it and had no camera and no studio and money for models I just used to draw the images instead!


But I'd got to a reasonable level and wanted to combine it somehow with my illustration. I kind of shunned collage for some reason and wanted to get real figures in there. At the time there was this kind of trend in design circles to present any large posters you made by holding them up in front of you and taking a photo so you just saw legs and hands holding the corners. It had become kind of a cliche to present work like that so I thought it would be funny if the content of the poster kind of matched the legs. I realized it was a kind of real life collage - so I made the Poster Girls work.


I wanted to comment on the blurring of fantasy and reality that we all to some extent engage in. Personally I had come to a realization that a large part of my suffering in the world came from my reality not matching with my fantasies, and that fantasy needed to be recognized as being fundamentally unreal in order to have any measure of satisfaction with the world.


But I also recognized that a lot of sexual dressing up (latex fetish being a quite extreme example) is all to do with making fantasy become real for a short period of time. For a while your partner who you know so well becomes anonymous or seems not themselves, transformed into the beautiful exotic stranger of your fantasies. So I wanted the work to be about disguise and masking the real, the illustrated fantasy covering the real person underneath.


You have also done design and illustration work for bands, including the cover work for Muse's album 'Black Holes and Revelations.' How did you get into the music scene and what was the experience like?


They just approached my agency. I worked on it for maybe six months. I had one meeting ever with them and even then only two of them showed up to it! It was kind of like any other job to be honest; a band is just another client at the end of the day. Great exposure though; better than doing advertising any day!



Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators and artists?


Just don't even look at contemporary illustration! Keep your work as personal as possible. That’s what gives you individuality.




What do you have lined up for the rest of the year?


Well, Semi Permanent want me back to talk in Brisbane. I loved Australia so much that I cried on the plane home!


I have to launch my shop soon - been dragging my feet. Want to do another show, when I'll get round to it is anyone’s guess!!



More info on Jasper Goodall at:




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