It started with an invitation to a Studio Soirée, followed a month later with a visit to talk in more depth. It’s no overstatement to say that walking into Chris Jackson’s studio is like walking into Aladdin’s cave. Its hard to know where to look first, an overwhelming feast for the eyes. Grotto like, intricate, eclectic, the work intrigues and delights, fostering a sense of wonder. Indeed in previous work he has taken inspiration from Maarten Van Heemskerk’ set of engravings about the Seven Wonders of the World.
When I ask Jackson about his studio he replies how the space feels at the moment “dysfunctional and overloaded. The work has built up to such an extent its starting to feel oppressive”. There is little opportunity for the eyes to rest on an empty space but it is easy to move about. The walls are punctuated with visual references from Tarzan magazines and biblical scenes to classical figurative sculpture. The studio is also awash with materials, collections of toys, cardboard, paints and finishes, small objects of unknown function and origin sit together, sparking ideas and connections. This space is a place of alchemy, from a distance the final work doesn’t reveal its components, only on closer inspection do these parts become identifiable, and in some cases familiar. Jackson’s process involves working on 3 or 4 pieces simultaneously and can take up to a year to complete. He considers most of the work to be 90% finished, its the promise of an exhibition pushes many an artist to settle the work into a state of being done with.
Jackson finds himself in the predicament that many artists do – the work is almost ready to go – but where does it go? He remembers his studio being in this condition before, uncomfortable, overcrowded. The solution? To photograph everything and then junk the lot. A painful process but a necessary one, liberating the space ready for new ideas and constructions. This studio is dedicated to the physicality of making, materials are conjoined resulting in a spectacle of scenario’s that stride unapologetically between religious belief and evolution theory.
With a sculpture practice comes the issue of distance and how to gain space from the work. Jackson considers the differences between art forms, “with paintings they can be turned to the wall’ offering creative breathing space. With this sculptural work the objects remain in plain view, at the time of my visit one is covered by a cloth but that doesn’t by any means render it unnoticeable.
What was Jackson’s motivation for initiating the Soirée I wondered, as most, if not all the time he works in the studio alone. ”I wanted to hear what people think about the possibility of them (the sculptures) being in another context”. It’s clear from my outside perspective this work needs to move on and outwards beyond the confines of the studio. Opening a studio pushes the artist to answer inevitable question; where are you planning on showing them? The answer is currently unknown but the act of opening the studio shares the work with its first audience and the next logical step is to find another audience and then another.