Tuesday, 16 November 2010

INTERVIEW: Jean McEwan

So, as you can see I've been a bit slack with posting 'regular' interviews with my creative chums, so apologies! But here is the long overdue interview with artist Jean McEwan who I studied Fine Art with in Leeds!
Tell us a bit about your creative background
Sure - I studied Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan Uni, graduating in 2005. When I first went to Uni I had a stereotypical perception that I would be spending my time throwing paint at huge canvasses but I discovered that I was in fact rubbish at painting, and found myself instead working with video. Much to my surprise, might I add, as I don't really like machines or computers very much.
My video work is pretty various - I've done performance to camera, experimental shorts, documentary and video for performance. The thing that connects it all I think is an interest in playing with narrative.
In 2005 me and my husband Nigel, who is also an artist, started a  collaboration called 'popup'  through which we organised and curated events to show moving image and performance work by artists. It started out really small  - our first event was a screening in a tiny cafe in Leeds using  equipment borrowed from the Uni!  It kind of grew from there and we spent the next 3 years running various  events in all kinds of spaces from galleries, music venues, and theatres and even domestic spaces. We got a huge kick out of it and we loved working with the artists, however it was exhausting and took up huge amounts of energy, not leaving any for doing our own work.
After that, around 2008, I started collaborating with a musician called Ian Tothill under the name of 'Of Dreaming Faces' and working together on making audio visual performances - with Ian playing violin live to projected moving image which I was mixing live using vj equipment and software. We developed a piece called 'Fortunes' which we performed in at South Square Gallery in Bradford, Theatre in the Mill at Bradford University, and the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.
After that I did my first solo curatorial project, called PS I LOVE YOU, which was a week long programme of arts events dedicated to The Beatles, which happened at Bradford Playhouse in May this year. It included everything from a visual arts exhibition to artist multiples (including your fabulous custom made badges, which were a massive hit) to a curated zine to screenings to performance events, and involved more than 50 artists, from the UK and internationally. I'm a total beatles anorak so it was heaven for me.
Since then I have taking a break from film-making and curating, and have been making zines.
Thinking back to our time at university together, you have worked in quite a few different mediums. What has been your favourite?
I have spent the most time working with video, both at uni and since, and I love the possibilities offered by  moving image in terms of exploring, deconstructing and playing with narrative. I'm addicted to watching film also.

More recently I've seen you make some Zines! What gave you the idea to make these?

I curated a Beatles zine as part of PS I LOVE YOU  and I totally loved doing it.
I went to a zine fayre at Impressions Gallery in Bradford this summer and felt like a kid in a sweetshop. The whole DIY ethos of zines really appeals to me; the fact that anyone can make one and effectively self publish - all you need is pen paper and photocopier. I love the democratic nature of this.  As a way of creative expression anyone can do it.  In these days of extremely limited funding for the arts, I think DIY creative expression like zine making  is the way forward. Also  I'm a sucker for an inky photocopied page. You might to be able to tell I'm a little evangelical :+))
And the fact that there are so many different genres and types of zine - from the personal to the political to the fan based to the aesthetic. In terms of making my own zines, interested in the exploring the intersections between some of these 'types'. My latest zine, 'no one should call you a dreamer' has personal elements along with fan type stuff in the form of references to films and writers I love, as well as drawings, photographs and collage.  You can see images from it on http://jeanieszines.blogspot.com/    and its available to buy on http://jeanieszines.bigcartel.com/product/no-one-should-call-you-a-dreamer
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I'm hugely influenced by the DIY culture and ethos in Glasgow where I lived for 12 years before moving to Yorkshire -  the city is very vibrant culturally and there is a great tradition of  creative people there tending to just get up their behinds and make stuff happen. Also there is a lots of crossover between art and music, and generally people in Glasgow have a very can do, down to earth and co-operative approach to creativity - loads of artist run projects going on and not too much art snobbery which I've sometimes witnessed in Leeds, which to me is not half as interesting as Glasgow. Seeing how artists went about things up there had a big influence on my own attitude to doing creative work.
Who are your favourite artists and makers?
I love Outsider art. Henry Darger just blows me away. I like stuff with a rough edge, thats a bit off kilter, obsessive, or absurd. I get bored in art galleries and I struggle to think of contemporary artists who I really like but  Miranda July is wonderful - her fiction writing is great, her film was very very good and I like her art too.
I get more from fiction, film and music.
Are you lucky enough to be a full time artist or do you have a day job?
Ha! Not yet. work freelance on community arts, teaching, and participatory projects to pay the bills and I  also have a part time catering job. Recently I've scaled down a lot of work commitments to spend time on my own work. Its great having the time to develop at a slower pace - normally I do projects to short time deadlines, so I'm enjoying taking my time at the moment to just play. I'm poor but happy at the moment :+))
What is your favourite piece of work you have made?
Probably the video I made for my degree show, 'reprise' which is a short experimental film with a soundtrack I made myself.  Its very rough round the edges and awkward as I was technically inept at the time, but I sort of like it because of this.
Do you have any more exhibitions or projects coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I'm planning some more zines -  some of which will be collaborative projects - watch this space:+)

What are your favourite TV shows / Films / Books / Websites to browse etc.

Six Feet Under is the best thing I've ever seen on the box. Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm makes me laugh myself silly.
Films - The Graduate, Harold and Maude, Lost in Translation, Withnail and I, Morven Callar. I really love the films of Michael Haneke, Bill Douglas, Andrea Arnold, Abbas Kierastami. Dipping my toes into Bergman but slowly does it. I saw an amazing film called 'Anchoress' recently which was stunning.
I am a short story junkie and I love the stories of Alice Munro, Richard Yates, Raymond Carver, William Trevor, and of course Chekhov.
Music -I am a huge fan of the Flaming Lips and have been going to see them for 10 years, their live shows are transcendental.  I'm going to see them next year perform the Soft Bulletin at Alexandra Palace in London and can't wait.
Where can we find you online? 
http://issuu.com/jeanmcewanhttp://jeanieszines.blogspot.com/  www.myspace.com/jeanmcewanhttp://community.thisiscentralstation.com/Jean McEwanhttp://psiloveyoubeatles.blogspot.com/http://twitter.com/Jeanmcewan


3 comments:

  1. thanks for featuring me Sarah! x

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  2. Excellent interview! So glad I came across your blog and all the other great interviews too.
    x

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  3. ooh! Interesting. I like your interviews.

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