40 Years 40 Artists: Jody Mulvey

Interview by Louisa Buck

Jody Mulvey (born 1997 in Glasgow, lives and works in Glasgow) graduated with a Fine Art MA from Edinburgh College of Art in 2020. Drawings, collages and maquettes form the starting point for her vividly immersive installations and architectural interventions which revolve around the notion of art as “a playful enquiry which oozes joy.”

She describes her work as “utilising colour, shape and materiality as a medium to subvert the seriousness of institutional spaces and playfully reconstruct them through my interventions.” Mulvey is also the founder of SADGRADS 2020, a community platform for UK art school graduates who had their degree shows cancelled due to COVID-19.
20 years into the 21st century, what is the role of art and the artist?
2020 has been a tumultuous year to say the least. Within and without the arts, the global pandemic has shaken up the ways in which we navigate the world. Graduating from a creative degree in the midst of a pandemic, I have experienced firsthand the rapidly shifting role of art and the artist and ultimately, the repercussions COVID-19 has had on society.

I believe that art collections are a public resource, and therefore should be accessible in some way, shape or form to everyone. The digitisation of the arts this year has encouraged vital conversations surrounding the accessibility of collections – which I hope continues – but, although it is undoubtable that key shifts in the arts have occurred over many years, 2020 has also emphasised the stark disparities that continue to exist within the arts, particularly highlighted by Black Lives Matter protests this year. Therefore, I believe that, although the role of an artist is predominantly as a maker of an output, they also have roles within their community to hold institutions accountable, be advocates for inclusive practices and support their peers. It is difficult to pin-point one exact role of art and the artist, because it is so multifaceted, but I do believe that the future of art lies within grassroots organisations and communities.

Some may hold the pessimistic view that the arts are obsolete. I would argue, however, that 2020 has shown just how vital the arts are and just how deeply they seep into every facet of our lives. For many, including myself, art has been the beacon of hope throughout this bleak time. Therefore, I hope the role of art and the artist grows to be recognised as not only valuable, but as a fundamental attribute that enhances our society.What are your hopes for the future as an artist?
To put it simply, I want to wake up every day and make a difference – even if that is just in a small way. Since starting SADGRADS2020 in March 2020, a community-building platform to support fellow UK 2020 graduates who had their degree shows cancelled due to COVID-19, my urgency to formulate creative solutions to support emerging artists has continued to grow. Supporting each other is intrinsic, whether that is as an arts community or within the broader context of our own personal communities, and I will continue to champion this forevermore. These communities of care deserve to be fostered in all facets of society because they are a lifeline to many; systems can fail us, but we can show kindness, give tangible support and show that there is still good in this world.

Although I am a recent graduate, I have big dreams for my future. I have such a deep belief in these networks of support that I want to continue to take meaningful steps to establish my career within the arts that centres my advocacy for the accessibility of the arts and the supporting of emerging talent. One day, I’d potentially like to establish my own artist-run initiative that operates as a community space too, but who knows? The world is changing so rapidly right now but I do know I have bags full of energy to make a difference. Ultimately, success can mean a lot of things to different people but to me success would be being happy and making others happy in the process.

Header: Jody Mulvey in her studio at Edinburgh College of Art, 2020. Photo: Tayo Adekunle.
1. Jody Mulvey, wibblewobble, 2020, mixed media collage.
2. Jody Mulvey in her studio at Edinburgh College of Art, 2020. Photo: Tayo Adekunle.

Louisa Buck is a writer and broadcaster on contemporary art. She has been London Contemporary Art Correspondent for The Art Newspaper since 1997. She is a regular reviewer and commentator on BBC radio and TV. As an author she has written catalogue essays for institutions including Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, ICA London and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In 2016, she authored The Going Public Report for Museums Sheffield. Her books include Moving Targets 2: A User’s Guide to British Art Now (2000), Market Matters: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Art Market (2004), Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector’s Handbook (2006), and Commissioning Contemporary Art: A Handbook for Curators, Collectors and Artists (2012). She was a Turner Prize judge in 2005.