Monday, 25 July 2011

Le Conversation

Joffe et Pye: Le Conversation

Harry: "This morning we agreed to do an e-mail interview about the show. In your studio today I felt pleased because you've already made more work than we could put up on the walls and we have at least three weeks till the show opens. I’ve made a few things. The first painting I made for the show was based on Lucian Freud's painting of a woman and her dog. The title was "Nothing Happens By Chance" which is based on something Lucian Freud's grandfather once said. The work I've been doing now could be called "Everything Happens By Chance". I've always loved Richter and Kelly's work about putting colours of the spectrum in any order but I never thought I would do it myself. I guess you never thought you'd be painting large Snoopys on cardboard - or did you?"

Jasper: “I have a hangover from that book launch, art people are generally cooler than book people. Because the show is in my place I can work right up to the last moment, I am always hoping that the next painting will be even better than the last one. So next time you come over I will have done 69 gray paintings or something. Yeah your colour paintings are pure, remind me of Stuart Cumberland’s show at the Approach, paring it down to the essentials. It can be a bit wanky, but if you pull it off makes you look deep and talented.  I don't know whether my Snoopy phase will last, I can't remember ever thinking what I'd be painting in the future. It's something I sometime set out to do though, paint the paintings I would paint in the future, so I will make faster progress. The progression for me is always to be making better paintings, which maybe is a silly way that I think. Do the future now!  What will you be doing in ten years time? Do you think you'll ever drive a car? I can't imagine ever learning to drive, but if I moved to say Vermont, I might learn.  Can you imagine what your work would be like if you owned a house, drove your kids to school, and went on regular summer holidays to a villa in France?”

Harry: "It's hard for me to imagine riding a bike let alone driving a car. So you can imagine the idea of being married and driving our kids to school is pretty much inconceivable.
I just watched the comedy film Step Brothers. Towards the end there is a spoof corny bit in which the grumpy father remembers the foolish dreams he had as a child and decides to encourage his sons to follow their dreams rather than tell them to grow up. I found myself weeping. Pretty much everyone starts off as a writer and an artist when they are a child at primary school but for some reason most people stop and people like you and me carry on. You live in your studio and I make paintings in my kitchen. I never feel I'm wasting time when I'm painting. I'd like to paint more. I don't care if it's not shown. Last night I was making a stripe painting and I felt happier than I have in years. It felt like it was all coming together for me. Maybe it was partly because I was completely drunk? Anyway for

me it wouldn't matter too much where I was living because my work is about getting out what's going on in my head. My question for you: is your painting a window or a mirror? Your sister said she saw paintings as a window."

Jasper: “I love how emotional you are about art and crap films! Hollywood films often make me want to cry, they have some magical story structure that hits the basic emotions.
Don't give up on the car and villa in France. Anyway I just see painting as an activity and these mirror window metaphors don't feel relevant. I paint paintings (paintings are paintings for me) and always trying to make the best one I can, which I have just said, so I am getting boring on this subject.  What do think of my paintings? An egotistical and awkward question but interesting. If you tell me I will tell you about yours!”

Harry: “What do I think about your paintings? I think you're like David Hockney in that you're someone that can never be written off completely. Hockney does a project using photo copied images of felt tip drawings of rich people's dogs or something and I think: "God, He's really lost it this time" but then he's off again and the next project is a hundred times better. I don't think you love colour in the way some painters do. Patrick Herron and Henri Matisse are really in love with colour. I think you're more about energy, pushing boundaries, being challenging. It's good to be proved wrong sometimes. I like it when a description of a painting (or film, book, song) is like a list of things that shouldn't work but when you see it you're pleasantly surprised. I've told you before that my favourites of your paintings were in your solo Notting Hill show but I also really liked your Himmler. Your Hockney tribute was pretty good and I like a lot of your really old stuff too. I like the fact that there is no easy answer to your question - that is what I think is good about your work.”

Jasper: “Huh?.. David Hockney! Suppose he's not too bad to be compared to, and I love colour! I take criticism very badly obviously, but good to hear still. What people say about my work remains fixed in my head for decades...

Your paintings are good on colour, clarity, humour, simplicity, and composition, and story. They make other paintings look like they are trying too hard. Sometime the surfaces can be a bit dull especially when you do large scale work, and I think that you don't need to work with others, though it must be fun. You are a good painter but stupid people think they are simple and South Parkish sometimes.. I don't get that, but probably something you need to confront or not. What would you do if you weren’t an artist? How come you've gone abstract?”

Harry: “All artists are sensitive souls. I think of the large scale ones I've done only a couple were any good. I rate Jesus Washing The Feet Of His Followers and the one of me playing chess with my dad - Marcus Cope and Rowland Smith contributed loads to both of them. I feel like I'm only starting out as a painting, like I'm rolling up my sleeves and getting ready to surprise you all. A painting I made about 6 years ago got damaged recently and it upset me. It was pretty much my first painting. There are some good ones I've made in this 6 year period but I think I can do a lot better. Some people will always say my work is like a children's book illustrator or like South Park - I don't mind that. And people have compared me to David Shrigley which I think is fair enough. I think it's bad to be too concerned with what others say about your work. Often one can think for years about a comment someone else made and forgot about 10 seconds later. I'm into stripes and coloured squares at the moment. I think it's just a phase I'm going through. Nothing to worry about. How many good paintings do you think you've done so far and do you feel the best is yet to come?

Jasper: “I don't know about how many good paintings I've done. Sometimes when I am on a high, I think wow I've done loads and they're really creative and different and I am a genius. Then other days maybe none, just a bunch of junk which trails about with me, all cack handed and worthless.

What type of books do you like to read? I read a lot of fiction, and I get the impression you don't, your paintings tell stories but you don't like story books?

Harry: Well, I've worked in the book shop at Tate Britain for 15 years. I do read lots of exhibition catalogues, art magazines, music magazines, children's books and artist biographies. The most interesting book I've read so far is probably The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I was talking the other day to someone about our press release for this show and the quotes we had selected. I think we've been lucky in that we've both had a few writers who like the cut of our jib and have been very encouraging and complimentary. But have you ever had a proper review? Has anyone ever really taken on board what you're about and talked about their engagement with what you do?  

Jasper: “Hey Harry.  I wasn't accusing you of being illiterate! (though if the cap fits, ha ha) Just interested that you prefer biographies to fictional stories. Was there any reason why?
By proper reviews you mean I guess an art magazine writing seriously or a newspaper critic. I've had much more press coverage of my shows in terms of them being a newsworthy event. I would like a review in the New Yorker or New York Times because it would be nice to get someone whose opinion you're really interested in, look carefully at your paintings and present their views to a big audience. When I give talks I have had people really engage with my art in a satisfying way... Perhaps it makes more sense as an oeuvre... I love that word. Do you crave attention and are you a show-off!?

Harry: “I've given lectures in a few places now. There's always one person who comes up to me at the end and asks me about Billy Childish. And there's usually one person who asks for my autograph. Once I had the rare honour of inspiring a song. Students of Chester wrote a song about me having a head on me like a potato and put it up on You Tube. It's getting far too many hits. I'm glad I don't make people nervous and that young people feel comfortable enough to do that sort of thing.

When I was about 12 I became obsessed with Monty Python. The sad thing is that since then there have been lots of things I haven't been able to take seriously. In a lot of cases when I begin to read a novel my brain goes on a walk and starts thinking how Python would have parodied it. I don't feel happy about this but there you go. When I try reading novels by Will Self, Martin Amis etc I can only see faults and errors and ways it could have been better.
I think that Remains of the Day is a great novel and I can remember wishing it wouldn't end. It is strange how our minds work though and how our tastes develop. I would say a children's book like The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr genuinely has had a massive impact on me. I have read the book Raymond Briggs made about his parents several times and it always makes me cry. Michael Rosen's Sad book about the death of his son is also important to me. I think these books contain truth in a way that novels by Will Self don't. I don't think Will Self has done anything that needed to be made whereas Briggs, Kerr and Rosen have. Munch said he didn't believe in any art that didn't arise from a person wanting to open their heart. I relate to this. I know some people will never see any value in the paintings I make but all I can say is it wasn't made for them. The reason I loved Monty Python and connected with it so deeply was because, to me, what they were saying was so true. They were questioning the way life was and challenging authority figures and being silly and to me it felt incredibly vital.
What have been your obsessions? What books, films, songs, paintings have been vital in shaping you or at least made you feel you weren't alone?

Jasper: “Good answer Harry. Obsessions. I've been reading Alba these American books about 1890s kids growing up in Utah. They're called "The Great Brain" books. They were a big influence I now realise. The kid with the great brain who swindles everyone and thinks of money making schemes and solves problems too, is the one I wanted to be. His brother J.D, the narrator, is more modest. I asked Alba who she wanted to be, she said the little brain J.D., and I was surprised and asked why, she said because he doesn't swindle people. I had no sense of that as a kid, I just wanted to be the great one!

I carried on liking 'inspirational stories', often with anti-heroes. Hemingway men. Henry Miller's escape from bourgeois drudgery. Stendhal. Updike, Roth, Proust, Celine, Cervantes, Kingsley Amis are all in my favourites list. Heroes. I wanted to be the heroes in books and saw them as manuals for self-improvement and success. I sure was/am nuts.  I also liked books with female protagonists as I saw them as research for future girlfriends. Recently I have been rereading books by Sybile Bedford, bohemian interwar freedom, and Updike, intensely observed aging.
I am obsessed with food. I want to eat meals that take me through highs of emotion, but lately I watched too much Masterchef and great British menu and that has made me sick of foodieism. I love TV too, Sopranos, Seinfeld, LA Law, The Emerald Forest (made me worried about rainforests) and innumerable other shows have imprinted themselves on my brain..
I tend to be really into stuff, then react against it, and say I have stopped doing it and given it up. Let's talk about things we like... What are a few of your favourite things?”

Harry: “I think it's really interesting that you love something and then react against it. When I was about 11 I fell in love with so many things that I still love with all my heart. Records such as Ian Dury's New Boots & Panties filled me up then and continue to do so. Other favourite things? Well, I like to be asleep, really deep deep sleep. And I like to be under water - I'm not a great swimmer but I love that first bit when you jump in. I like being in the arms of people I love especially if they can take me away from the rest of the world. I love getting drunk especially if it er... takes me away from the rest of the world. And I like music especially if it takes me away from the rest of the world. I like wit. I like being with friends with sharp minds and tongues. I've got a sad autistic completest streak in me which goes hand-in-hand with my squirrel like desire to horde possessions such as records. And I like painting because again I can lose myself in it and escape from the rest of the world. Friendships are what keep me going though. Do you love your friends?”

Jasper: “I do love my friends. As I get older I value them more and more, they give you a way of measuring your own changes, and a kind of family without so many childhood hopes and fears distorting the relationship.  I try to never lose a good friend over a silly argument, when I was younger (god I sound so old and pious) I used to let conflict get out of hand and sometimes destroy friendships, and I realise not everyone likes arguing as much as I sometimes do ( I see it as being play in a way).  It's good watching their development from callow youth to person with serious jobs and families and whatever, and you can look back and see them as a scared teenager or wild or introverted or girlfriendless. People change is what I am saying and I like thinking back on that.  It's like I go to the same two Chinese restaurants all the time, and look back on the different friends I have been there with, I am conservative like that, eat the same pork and duck on rice I have been having since my mum brought it home after she'd been out shopping with my sisters, while I skulked at home.  This constant battle to accept and enjoy change while keeping a solid sense of yourself... I sound like I have been on the self-help again...”

Harry: “It is a sad and beautiful world.”

Le Snoopee

Le Snoopee by Jasper Joffe 2011

The Power of Suggestion

The Power of Suggestion by Harry Pye with Rowland Smith 2011

Friday, 15 July 2011

Vive Jasper et Harry and vive La France as well!

London's best selling magazine Time Out have compiled a Top Ten list of ways to celebrate Bastille Day.
We were delighted to be squeezed in at the end! I'm sure that the Poussin exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Cendrillon show at the Royal Opera House and all the other stuff in the list are all very good in their own individual ways but Joffe et Pye will be the most magnificent.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Jasper & Harry photos by Aleksandra Wojcik

We were delighted Aleksandra Wojcik met us in Soho last week and took all these great photos.
Aleksandra has a website where you can see more examples of her work:
(Above: On the steps of The National Gallery)