Dystopolis – In Conversation with Jasmir Creed

Dystopolis presents new paintings by Jasmir Creed. Critical texts by Dr Lauren Elkin and Dr Graeme Gilloch explore the paintings in contemporary cultural contexts. The paintings explore Jasmir Creed’s ‘psycho-geographic city journeys, focusing on architecture and crowds showing the city as a rich forest-like environment’. We caught up with Jasmir Creed to discuss her exhibition and the publication of Dystopolis.9780956359520

Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your artwork and where your inspiration comes from?

My paintings explore the psycho-geography of cities, especially Manchester and Liverpool, focusing on architecture and crowds based on my experiences journeying through cities. My images reflect how geographical locations affect emotions and behaviours, for example tensions between the individual and collective corporate culture, as seen in people and city tower blocks. Images contrast multiple viewpoints, expressing feelings of alienation and flux in the jostling movement of people in city spaces, showing the city as a rich forest-like environment of the known and the unknown.

The materiality of paint and colour filter and personalised experiences, creating dynamic shifts between light and dark, large and small, geometric and organic with exaggerated simplified forms. Rich monochromes, subtle colours and expressive mark making heighten a sense of disorientation.  I am fascinated by iconic buildings such as the Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, designed by Daniel Liebskind. I invigilate exhibitions there and notice the slow movement of visitors such as families and war veterans reacting to images of crowds in the exhibits, for example soldiers in conflict.

Other influences include work by Contemporary Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu who explores abstracted images of cities, histories, wars and geographies with a frenetic mark making that for the artist becomes a way of an unravelling a personal biography, similar to my use of topological maps in my painting. Andreas Gursky’s photographs of crowds, including of Tokyo Stock exchange, show an aerial view similarly to the viewpoint in my painting Fragmentation 2017.

jasmir creed 'fragmentation' 2017 oil on canvas 120 x 90 cmJasmir Creed’s ‘Fragmentation’, 2017 (oil on canvas)

Your exhibition Dystopolis is currently running at the Victoria Gallery & Museum. How did this exhibition come about? What was the process behind this project?

I met the Victoria Gallery and Museum team when I attended a study day there held by the Contemporary Art Society in February 2018. During a break I was invited to show some images of my work and the team were very intrigued. I was then offered a solo exhibition after I sent the curatorial team a proposal soon after the study day. My solo exhibition is running now until 21 April 2019.

The title ‘Dystopolis’ refers to the unsettling architecture that I see as domineering, creating a dystopic sense of a metropolis, illustrating an atmosphere of alienation in the urban environment, as individuals confront crowds weaving through cities. I’m showing 15 large new paintings, curated by the VGM curator Dr Amanda Draper. I successfully obtained Arts Council England funding for the exhibition.

jasmir creed 'sometimes lost' 2018 oil on canvas 120 x 90 cmJasmir Creed’s ‘Sometimes Lost’, 2018 (oil on canvas)

To coincide with your exhibition, your book Jasmir Creed: Dystopolis published at the end of November. What does the book include and how does it work alongside the exhibition?

The production of the book has enhanced appreciation of the exhibition. The book has critical texts on my work by world-renowned writers Lauren Elkin and Dr. Graeme Gilloch (Lancaster University) and the VGM curator Amanda Draper. Audiences will engage with the catalogue against the work displayed through copies available for reading in the gallery and purchase in the VGM shop and via the Liverpool University Press website.

Extracts from the catalogue texts will be presented at learning events, including a creative recharge session at the VGM, will be a starting point for art-making and creative writing aimed at varied age groups, and will feed into my in conversation event during the exhibition.

jasmir creed 'underpass' 2018 oil on canvas 213 x 152 cmJasmir Creed’s ‘Underpass’, 2018 (oil on canvas)

The book is beautiful and includes paintings of yours from 2015-2018. Which of these for you is a stand out piece we should look out for when visiting your exhibition or reading the book?

The exhibition has enabled progression of my ideas and visual language in new work specially made for the exhibition, exploring iconic Liverpool sites such as the cathedrals.

My painting Pool of Life is for me a stand out piece I think audiences should look out for. Pool of Life is inspired by the dream of Carl Jung about Liverpool, a city he had never visited. In the dream he saw Liverpool as a ‘broad square dimly illuminated by street lights into which many streets converged’. He was drawn to the magnolia tree on an island in a centre of a pool in the street which ‘stood in the sunlight and was at the same time the source of light’. The aquatic panel is shown as a lingering reminder of previous rainwater having fallen before on the crowd on the right. The warm yellow resembles hope and life in the pool.

jasmir creed 'pool of life' 2018 oil on canvas 150 x 120 cmJasmir Creed’s ‘Pool of Life’, 2018 (oil on canvas)

What are you going to be working on next?

My production of new work will develop my professional practice, through public display and through engagement with audiences including artists, curators, collectors and writers. I hope to achieve further exhibitions of my work in the UK and internationally.

jasmir creed 'altar island' 2018 oil on canvas 120 x 90 cmJasmir Creed’s ‘Altar Island’, 2018 (oil on canvas)

For more information on Dystopolis please visit our website, and for more details on Jasmir’s exhibition visit the Victoria Gallery & Museum website.


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