The Duality of a Moment: A Conversation with Jordy Kerwick
About one year ago, during the heat of global lockdowns, Jordy Kerwick won our hearts with a show entitled The website show — an honest approach to an imaginary show, as a response to the ever-present "online shows" and "online viewing rooms". And we're looking back at that moment as we're seeing him opening his first-ever solo show in Paris on March 13th at Julien Cadet gallery.
In reality, Kerwick won our hearts much earlier than that. With his non-compromising, intuitive, and straight-up oddball visuals, his exhaustive approach to creative practice, and continuous, unstoppable output. An Australian living with his family in the French countryside for the last couple of years has found his new call and shelter from the world problems at his studio, where he kept producing work that slowly started getting global recognition. The myth-like images of double-headed rugs, mermaids, unicorns, tigers, serpents, houses, flower pots, and books, are part of his lexicon he has been building and quite literally carving into his canvases. Driven by the urge to make, regardless of the format, scale, or materials available, his fantastical work became a symbolic reflection of his family and/or home-centered life. And after recent presentations in the US and Greece, we couldn't miss the opportunity to talk with him about the milestone Parisian debut that will be presented in two chapters at Julien Cadet gallery between March 13 and April 30th.
Sasha Bogojev: How does it feel to be traveling to a show opening and be there in person?
Jordy Kerwick: I’m about as comfortable at an opening as I am minutes prior to a colonoscopy. I don’t know what to do with my hands and my wife says I’m a commercial liability. It’s also kinda weird given the state of the world, but honestly, I’m just happy to jump in the car and go for a big drive and hang out with the fam and the gallery. Things that we once took for granted now have a new light to them and I’m just eternally grateful to have the chance to see the works hung in person with my fam.
Did you feel in any way intimidated having a solo presentation in a city that's a synonym for art, or maybe even for painting?
In a word, yes. I'm in total awe of the city and what it represents historically, culturally, and artistically. Not to mention the desire to put on a show befitting the stellar reputation that Julien and Matthieu have built for the gallery. Without the likes of Matisse, Picasso, Derain, etc, there is a strong likelihood that painting as we know it today looks markedly different from what we know today. Throw in some words of wisdom from De Beauvoir and Sartre, and the many literary geniuses that called Paris home over the past 300 years and you have the ultimate hub of creativity and critical thinking. To have the opportunity to show some paintings here is pinch-worthy.
How would you describe the type of work you've made for this and was there a certain theme or concept you wanted to work with?
I've made work that has largely evolved from a focus on interiors and kind of mashed them together with things I loved drawing as a boy, discussions I have with my sons, and palette influences from our surroundings. It's fun and absurd and texture-focused. There wasn’t a theme so to speak, but Matthieu and I had spoken about singular works having multiple meanings. “Here we have a two-headed panther rug, made whilst contemplating mortality and my yoyo’ing mental stability. Voila”. Two unrelated things being inextricably linked via paint and mood.
What are some of the aspects of this body of work that you're particularly proud of?
I think one of my biggest floors in putting on a solo is the lack of a broader focus on the show as an entire experience looking succinct and making sense. I've just always wanted to make each work strong in its own right. So yeah, I hope that the body of work, as a body of work, makes sense. And also that I made the work without too many disasters, for a change.
Living abroad for 4-5 years now I can't imagine you have much of life besides family and studio. How much does your private life seep into your work, the visuals you make?
Yeah, we left family and friends back in Aus which has been tough and massively exacerbated by a global catastrophe. So for a year now, it's literally been family and studio. The lines between my private life and the work are blurred, to be honest. It all feels like one big existence. We take our boys everywhere and I ask for their opinion as well as my wive's all the time. I was lucky enough to marry my best mate, so I have work, kids, a friend all in one simple yet extremely chaotic life.
You're often posting your drawing sessions with your kids. Are they fans of your work, or are you more of a fan of their work?
I think they give plenty of lip service to my drawings. “Yeah it's cool Dad”, but I know they are just being polite. I never ever thought in a million years I'd be a gloating father, but I get so excited by Sonny and Milo’s drawings. Their personalities come out in their drawings and are totally different from one another. It's just a very cool thing to watch and I'm proud as punch of them, even if they don’t love my drawings (sad face).
Did they inspire any of your concepts in any way? Perhaps the direct, unapologetic approach to mark-making?
For sure. Watching any kid draw makes you realize their total lack of creative boundaries. Why the fuck shouldn’t you make a double-headed cobra rug??? As for mark-making, that’s all me. I don’t have a steady hand and have sausage fingers, so that’s just me being me.
I felt your images are scars of a battle between you and the canvas. Was I far off?
Bingo. Never ceases to amaze me how much of a blessing a monumental fuck up can be. The more the merrier. I learn new stuff all the time, usually off the back of getting things wrong. But some decisions are intuitive and you barely remember making them.
Looking back, do you think a year of lockdowns informed the way your work has been developing and in what way if so?
Yeah, I think it has. When you're looking down the barrel of an uncertain future re career and general way of life, I think you take the gloves off and just go for it. Worst case scenario, you don’t like it. Or others don’t like it. If that’s the worst that can happen, then I'm ok with that. It's easy to assess your historical relevance against the timeline of the existence of the earth and realize how inconsequential the decision you are too’ing and fro’ing about. So fuck it, make the painting and live with it. I think lockdown has contextualized life in general for a lot of people, I know it has for me.