In the Studio with Jamie Kirk

In the studio with Jamie Kirk, a contemporary visual artist whose practice explores the complexity of interwoven shapes and forms across multiple layers. We met with Jamie to tell us more about growing up in London, what inspired them to first pursue their artistic journey, and their greatest influences.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I suppose when I was at Oaklands College at the age of 16 was when I started to take what I did more seriously. I’d always loved art and making things but hadn’t previously considered it to be a viable career; I just did things for myself. I still do. Sometimes I think calling it a ‘career’ is a bit strange, as I can’t imagine doing anything else. Then going to university in Manchester really exposed me to what that ‘career’ might look like. I still occasionally struggle to refer to myself as an artist; I see myself as someone who makes art. But what’s the explicit difference? 

 Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I’m from London originally, but I’ve moved about more times than I can count, which in hindsight I think has been overall beneficial. I lived in France for 5 years during my teens and that was really formative, for better or worse. I draw a lot of inspiration from my experiences during that period. On paper I might be considered the typical, ‘mixed race working class raised by a single mother’ trope, but I’ve never found this to be detrimental, fortunately. My mum, who’s also an artist, has always been really supportive. 

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work? 

When I was little we had a huge box of discarded cardboard which we’d delve into to make things out of, and this must’ve been the seed from which my artistic journey started to grow. I haven’t ever really sat down and asked myself whether or not it was something I wanted to do, but Ive known what I haven’t wanted to do. So that’s a tough question to answer. I’ve always loved art, been around art and made art so I feel like my life has gone the way it was supposed to, so far. If you believe in ‘fate’ that is.

I guess I felt like I was on the right track after my interview with Dr Ian Hartshorne, tutor of painting at Manchester School of Art. That was a day I won’t ever forget.

What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from? 

My paintings are usually really brightly coloured. Maybe this is a direct contrast to my dark sense of humour. I make abstract compositions with lots of layering, and I’m interested in the interaction between shapes and colours. Their origin usually derives from words; colloquialisms, puns, double entendres etc. 

Maybe being bilingual has spurred this on. I also enjoy the fact they’re open to different interpretations, as all things are. What they mean to me, or whatever message they’re conveying or concealing, will be totally different to somebody else and I cherish this ambiguity.

Who & what are your greatest influences?  

Unsurprisingly my mum has always been a great influence on me. I see her as a sort of polymath. So growing up with a vast range of art, music and cultural interests around me has been a driving force. Aside from that, the peers I met at uni, my tutors and artists whose work I’ve never seen in person but admire have kept that fire burning. Just being a human in this era of the Earth I guess, haha.

How important is the space where you work?


What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

I try not to, really. I think over contemplating how others might view your work inhibits true creativity; but in the social media-centric world we live in its difficult to not give it some thought. I think that applies more to how I choose to present the work online, personally. Unless of course it’s a commission, then I will try to tailor it more to the individual’s preferences. Not too much though.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? 

Moving house, moving country, the to and fro of dealing with mental health have all impacted my art to some degree. I think just learning more about the technicalities of painting and, for lack of a better word, ‘hacks’ from other artists has also played a big role. I experiment a lot, and usually work on smaller surfaces to test out ideas. 


What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

A strong source of daylight. I was tempted to say “having a clear head” but some of my preferred works have arguably been made on the contrary. On a more basic level, having a clean set up and adequate studio space really helps.

I dither between pre-planning pieces through sketches and going straight into it, so I can’t really specify which is more conducive to making a “good” piece. What I might consider “good” could be totally different to somebody else anyway. 

Tell us about the inspiration behind  your works?

What I consider to be a stand-out piece, purely for the fact that it has a figurative element, ‘Untitled’, was brought on by ideas of loss and toxic relationships combined with battling addiction. 

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I’d really like to revisit making three dimensional pieces, which I’d probably still consider to be paintings. I think my heart lies with painting but I don’t think it’s exclusive to existing on a wall. I like the idea of pushing this boundary and seeing how much I can get away with before it’s deemed a sculpture. I made a lot of assemblages at university, but still considered them to be paintings. It’s only comparatively recently that I’ve been painting on canvas; I think that’s probably why my work consists of so many layers, because that’s how I worked in 3D space beforehand. I hadn’t even really painted before I went to uni. A bit at college, but I was always better at drawing.

I’d love to start using a wider range of materials too, because I’ve become obsessive about the material qualities of paint itself and I think it’d be really interesting to explore this via other means. I like deceptive work.