FUTURE: RACE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
62.5x83cm, 2 silkscreen prints
Click on the thumbnails to view full image
ABOUT THE WORK
In Jonnie's own words
Following shortlisting I sent a note out via the West Midlands Magistracy describing the Anniversary project and inviting Magistrates to express interest in being portrayed.
The response was very encouraging, which allowed me to literally draw the present and future of race and the criminal justice system.
To produce the portraits I consulted with the Chair of the Birmingham and Solihull Bench on achieving a representative selection inclusive of ethnicity, gender and age. Two magistrates were selected to be portrayed.
Carlton Williams: “At 26 I’m the youngest magistrate on the Family Panel.”
Sue Marwa: “I joined the Bench in 1984, and was one of the first ‘ethnic faces’ at that time.”
JONNIE TURPIE MBE
For 25 years Jonnie was Director of Maverick Television, which he founded. He is a director of a range of arts and education charities and was awarded an MBE for services to international trade in the Queens 2010 List. He was the High Sheriff of the West Midlands 2015/16 with a theme of arts, creativity and young people. Having retired from the wonderful Maverick he is pursuing his phd: THE DRAWN PORTRAIT IN CONTEMPORARY PRINTMAKING
We had a short chat with Jonnie to get to know him better
What has been your creative journey?
My parents encouraged me to draw and they took me to art galleries in Scotland. I have memories of going to the National Museum in Edinburgh, and seeing Velazquez painting “Woman Cooking Eggs” and loving it. It made me realise that making images was an important thing to do.
In school, I studied everything but art. I was told you couldn't do art and English, and I had to do English. However, in my last year of school I did the 2 year qualification in one year and I loved it. That made me realise it’s something I wanted to pursue
I started my journey as a fine artist doing printmaking, photography and video while I was a student in Newcastle and London. I made and exhibited work for a while, and then quickly went in a different direction and became a filmmaker. For many years I was a producer, until about 3-4 years ago when I decided to return to fine art. I started to draw using conventional tools, then moved to digital technologies like iPad, and eventually returned to my roots in printmaking.
Fortunately, I was able to use the facilities at Birmingham City University art school, and developed a technique of converting drawings into silkscreen prints that look like lithography. I was enjoying it so much that I applied for a PhD in Practice-led Printmaking. At the same time I was High Sheriff for Midlands, and I drew portraits of people I had met during my 12 months in that role. These portraits went into an exhibition and were sold for charity. So this is what I have been working on for the past 2.5 years - a PhD in Portraiture and Printmaking.
Apart from Velazquez, who were the artists or movements that inspired you?
In terms of artists, I think Rembrandt with the brilliant technique of chiaroscuro, as well as his printmaking abilities that are second to none. More contemporary influences were people like Wharhol and Ruscha, who were making very brightly coloured silkscreens that were very of the moment. Ruscha in particular made very cool art and he even said that he moved to LA because it was cool. He made this book called 26 gasoline stations, which were basically the 26 stations he passed on the way to LA. These images have no human presence at all, but actually we are there because we are putting ourselves into that position mentally. So Pop Art and that philosophy was definitely of importance.
How did you move to portraits?
While involved in film and media, I filmed many people and created moving portraits. All the artwork I was making at the time was about landscapes and buildings. What happened to get the PhD underway was that I realised I wanted to create images of people in new ways, I wanted to capture and reflect the people I meet. I write about it as celebrations of people that I meet, because it’s very important to me that images are celebrations of people I meet.
How do you go about capturing a person? How do you show their essence and personality in a drawing?
Most people I know and that has been the reason for me choosing to make an image of them. I begin with a smartphone photo of the subject, and blow it up to a large scale image. It becomes blurry and lacks detail so the lines are more loose and freeing. The “capture” of the personality happens during the drawing phase. I draw on film using graphite or indian ink, try out different textures and shapes. I try to be conscious with my mark-making and reflect the person: are they abstract or detailed? Very realistic or not? That takes a long time, often it helps to walk away from the drawing and then return to it again with fresh eyes - sometimes an individual mark can become the focus of the image.
What is the academic side of your PhD? What are you reading and writing about?
Many things! Philosophical and phenomenological threads, how images are created, how mark-making can affect images, the deeper meaning of the process of art making and portraiture… How printmaking is not just a set process as it allows for accidents and deviations, so I have been reading a lot about chance and creativity that can influence my thinking about the making of the images.
Tell me about your stint in TV and media - how did you get into that?
I think at the time video was something new, before that film was the way to create moving image. I was part of the collective that set up London Video Arts and we promoted the idea of artists using this new time-based medium. I enjoyed the debate whether film was art, and the work that came out of it too. Once I left university and got a job as a research assistant, I bumped into some people who were making narrative based films, and worked with a lot of young people.
Film became the ground where you could test out ideas in a collaborative way. This coincided with Channel 4 television coming out, who were really innovative. I made some films and dramas for them, then set up an independent production company to make work for them. In a few years time I set up another which eventually became Maverick Television and grew into an independent regional producer. We kept expanding and were one of the first companies to embrace the internet and realise that it can be a place for new content and ideas. Then we expanded again and became international, and that’s when I decided that it was enough for me so I retired to go return to making art.