In the studio with Josef Neet, an abstract artist whose works explore themes of nostalgia, longing and mental health. We met with Josef to tell us more about growing up in the East Midlands, his creative outlets, and unexpected sources of inspiration.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I’m a proud Midlander (currently living in London.) Where I’m from has definitely shaped me as a person, there’s more of a dry wit and a certain cynicism that I feel comes through in my work, especially throughout my titles. I didn’t come from what you would call a stereotypical ‘arts background’ but definitely my parents have always encouraged me to pursue whatever I felt was right for me.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?
I’ve always had creative outlets and I went through pretty much everything from playing the banjo to a failed attempt at being a poet before I embraced being an artist.
Becoming an artist was something that very much crept up on me. I began dabbling with literally no idea what I was doing and zero instruction. After after six months I painted a canvas and I thought to myself ‘that’s not bad, in fact, I quite like it’ I haven’t looked back since.
What’s the message of your work? (themes/narratives/purpose) Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?
I tend to not over intellectualise my work too much, for me, I feel the need to paint and I tend to approach my work with a simple starting point: a pallete, a reaction a piece of music or an other artist’s work or whatever is going on for me personally can end up on the canvas.
Overall, the message is the creative urge in itself, it’s a huge part of me. My work can at times be deeply personal, there can be an aggression to my work. There can also be an innocence and and serenity. My moods tend to be cut and dry as do my works.
Who/what are your greatest influences?
The New York School, The Fall, Tony Hancock in the 1961 film ‘The Rebel’, Colour blocking, children’s art, stolen lyrics.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
Clean Studio, a mixture of pristine and damaged brushes, a diverse and well thought out selection of materials, listening to the same album over and over, mobile phone switched off, remaining hydrated, nervous excitement followed by an inner peace, lack of deadline, no interruptions.
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your (consignment) works?
Pull ’em out my head like a magician, 2021
The inspiration behind this piece was to put the puzzle pieces back to gather and to make sense after a prolonged period of uncertainty. The straight, almost interlocking edges of the work, represent something solid, clear out thought out.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I hope to explore more industrial materials, plasterboard, shrapnel, tar, and saw dust.