Alan Jones discusses his exhibition ‘Wyalkatchem’ with Venn Gallery

Alan Jones, 'Wyalkatchem', Venn Gallery, Perth, WA, 18 November - 23 December 2011

Venn Gallery: Q&A with Alan Jones

Earlier this year you travelled back to Wyalkatchem with your father in preparation for this exhibition, in what ways did this trip influence the works in the show?

I have been wanting to do the trip back to Wyalkatchem for several years now. It wasn’t until August this year that I had the opportunity to get back there with my Dad, Mike. Making the trip to ‘Wylie’, where dad and I hadn’t been for nearly 3 decades, really allowed me to immerse myself in the subject of both a period in time when my parents chose to live and raise a young family there in the Wyalkatchem Hotel and the actual town itself.

Most of the works in this series stem from old and faded family photos. These images in photo albums have been familiar to me for as long as I can remember. It was really valuable to revisit these scenes and places in person to see and understand what have been my earliest memories.

Many of the portraits and images in this series are sourced from both old and recent photographs. What qualities do you look for when selecting these?

Many of my figurative paintings show a singular figure positioned in the centre of the canvas. I like the way this draws the viewer’s focus to the subject. I look for a clean image of a figure or figures where hopefully a dialogue can be set up between the subject and the viewer. It is also important that the subject sits on the canvas as a strong form and relatively uninterrupted.

The paintings in this series appear to have a drawn quality to them. Can you elaborate on your painting technique and process?

All of the figurative paintings in this body of work began firstly as charcoal drawings. As the paintings developed, the dry, powdery charcoal residue has in fact bled into and mixed with the thin and very fluid oil paint to create quite a granular surface. Drawing, usually, is a more immediate process than painting and one of the big advantages of working with immediacy and speed is that it allows you to get your ideas down as they happen and quickly. This series of paintings (for the large part), like drawing, have a very immediate quality to them. They are a tribute to the essence of drawing.

Sculpture has always been an important part of your practice. How do the sculptures relate to your painting practice?

It’s important a body of work has a common thread. In my practice, this common thread is usually a theme, which often centres around notions of identity. Within that theme, the works themselves are often quite diverse as I work with a range of different mediums and materials. For me, setting myself the clear parameters of a theme, actually allows me to then become more open to new possibilities.

Sculpture is a very important part of my practice. Sculptures allow me to work on my ideas while at the same time allowing me to use my hands and thought process in a completely different way. Having a sculpture element in my studio practice allows me to stay engaged with the work. It keeps my mind clear and hopefully keeps the work fresh.

You have been perusing ongoing particular themes in your practice based around the idea of identity. What has continued to draw you to investigate these?

It is important for me to have a personal connection to the work in one form or another. This keeps me emotionally involved, attached and ultimately engaged in my art-making process. I’ve been working around the idea of identity for a number of years now and I find it interesting because looking back in time allows me to better understand where I am today. Identity evolves as well, so it is a subject that can be forever new and endlessly explored.

Identity as a theme is also interesting because it can be both highly personal and universal at the same time. I’m constantly reminded through the work that my life story and experiences certainly are not unique at all.

Which artists practice are you currently interested in? Has anyone in particular influenced this series of works more widely?

Artists work who I’ve been influenced by over the years would include: Georg Baselitz, Francis Bacon, Phillip Guston, the Chapman Brothers, Peter Doig and Martin Maloney. Australian artist’s who work I greatly respect, would look at and has no doubt influenced my work over the years would include: Martin Smith, Bill Henson, Elvis Richardson, Ricky Swallow, John Peart and Adam Cullen.

View exhibition – Wyalkatchem