To coincide with this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition, Maya Caspari caught up with artists Conor Rogers and Jamie Fitzpatrick to hear about what what led them to become artists, whether art should be political and an early obsession with monkeys.
What led you to become an artist? Which other artists or artworks, past and present, have inspired you?
Jamie Fitzpatrick: I don’t know really. I was always drawing and writing stories as a kid—making things—and I guess that art was the closest thing at school to what I enjoyed doing with my time outside of there. But I’m not sure if I recognised it as art then. I used to be—still am—a bit attention-seeking at school and disruptive in class so I used to get sent for remedial art to calm me down and focus my energy and I loved that. I thought it was great - I got out of class and got to do stuff. The art class was in an out-building off the main school and, as I got older, I was spending so much time in there that they gave me a copy of the school keys to lock up after myself as I was constantly trying to stay late when the teacher was marking/cleaning up. Then I hardly left. I guess it was at that point when you are leaving school and you have the looming ‘what do I want to be’ question seemingly hanging over you that I figured I just wanted to make stuff.
"I was always drawing and writing stories as a kid."
Conor Rogers: I would describe it as ‘discovering you’re an artist’ as it is a continuous process of self-learning. I can be inspired by any daily encounter so to pin it down is hard. At art school I was studying artists such as Frank Stella, Alberto Burri and Robert Rauschenberg. I felt that they had an ability to see past painting as depicted imagery on flat surfaces and questioned form, shape and the medium they used. I also admire Claes Oldenburg's approach to materials and the relationship to the everyday object. More recently, I found the composition subjects within landscape photography by photographers such as John Riddy and Willie Doherty inspiring.
What do you see as the main challenges facing young and emerging artists today and how can we address them? Do artists have a responsibility to be politically engaged?
JF: Personally, I find work that takes—or at least makes the viewer consider—some sort of standpoint more interesting than work that doesn’t but hey, people can do what they want to do.
"Everyone has a responsibility—not just artists—to be politically engaged."
CN: Time is very important when creating work and for most independent artists leaving art school you don’t just jump into the same routine of waking up in a morning and strolling into your studio. Figuring out the correct balance between working on your art and working to put food on the table is crucial and maybe improving funding for postgraduate mentoring would help. Everyone has a responsibility—not just artists—to be politically engaged in some form. I would say artists should be mindful and not ignore how powerful their art could be on impacting political concerns.
Tell us something we don’t know about you
CN: One of most surprising moments was in third year of study at Sheffield Hallam University, where I found out my painting 88 Calories was shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize 2014. It was following my end of year assessment and the two tutors who assessed me stated that they had also applied for the prize in secret but did not get in. Overall, it was great experience.
"As a kid, I was obsessed with monkeys."
JF: As a kid, I was obsessed with monkeys. I had tons of facts about them memorised - I could reel off all the scientific name of every primate species, stuff like that. I used to go to the zoo and draw them all the time, I think I thought I was some kind of urban Diane Fossey. Anyway, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call them art but I reckon these drawings were the first things I had wanted to keep. ■